A Mask for Everyday
When The Face Magazine in the nineties told you that London was the place to be, then this was advice that needed to be followed. Damselfrau (aka Magnhild Kennedy) moved London in 2007 from Trondheim in Norway with her partner Robert, for the city’s culture, chaos and clubbing. Out of this creative primordial stew evolved her artistic practice, hundreds of beautifully crafted, unusually elegant masks, made with imagination and intuition. Miista asked Magnhild more about London, influences and her work…
Was their a particular starting point to Damselfrau or was it something that evolved over time?
It started with making our own outfits for clubbing when me and Robert first moved to London 10 years ago. It began as classic lace type pieces and have just organically moved from there. The format stuck with me. I never chose to work with masks, it just happened. It's funny, I'm not very interested in mask as category. I never was.
What brought you to London?
The city itself. As a teen I already knew I would end up in London. Back then The Face Magazine told me it was the only place for me to be. And it was so right! The museums and markets. The chaos. I love it here.
Do you feel London has had an effect on what and how you work?
It means everything to my work. The materials you can get your hands on here. The people from all over the world. Now I could probably take the work elsewhere but I hope I won't have to. I want to stay forever.
Masks simultaneously both reveal and hide an identity, do you think the process of making each piece has had an affect how you identify with yourself?
It has given me confidence. Both in the work and how I see things. And how I see people.
How many pieces have you now made?
I'm not sure.....not that many, 200 maybe.
Do you make all the elements of the masks yourself?
I use anything and everything. I cut up old and new clothes and jewellery. I have periods where I embroider more and make most of the materials myself and others where I just cut and paste a lot.
I recall seeing the Grayson Perry exhibition The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at The British Museum in 2011. What I liked most about the exhibition was the fact that it was a times impossible to tell whether some of the objects were made by him or artefacts from the British Museum collection. Some of your work I could imagine seeing in the pages of a National Geographic…Do you take an ethnographic approach picking different elements from different cultures? Do you approach each piece with a similar framework or are you much intuitive?
I loved that show! I stay away from any literal interpretation. I try my best not to make anything that looks like something I have seen. But ideas do get stuck up in my brain and sometimes they come out as a ghost of something. It's inevitable.
I read somewhere you’re self taught, I think this allows a freedom from conventions and trends within an Art School environment. Have you ever felt pressure to make or work in a particular way, how do you see yourself with regards to your peers?
If anything, it probably comes from myself. I come from a family of artists, so I have learned the 'right way' growing up. I try to have an uncomplicated relationship with it all. Do only what feels good, follow my guts and take my time. Work slow and steady.
Talking of trends, we still seem to be gripped in the safe sea of grey, taupes and minimalism as best reflecting modernity. I think the colour and detailing of your work bring joy and drama - what does the use of colour, details and materials bring to for you to the work?
First of all I have a baroque approach and it's natural for me to over inform the pieces. I can't help myself. Editing myself and holding back is a struggle. But I suppose it gives them a home? Like they have been around for a while, they are not of 'now'. When I work I imagine making for a dimension or a future where these masks are used as part of the every day get-up. Not costume.