Emerging Alchemy : Two Opposites From Denmark Collaborate To Create A Multi-Faceted Madness Of Beauty

SWOO 65x30 Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
“Emerging Alchemy” is as much an exploration of Danish design sensibility as it is figure and form. Originally from Denmark and now making their mark on Los Angeles, the show is a multi-faceted collaboration between celebrated photographer / cinematographer Thomas Fryd and the much sought-after street artist / graphic designer Mikael B (known as KETS in the graffiti world). The result is 15 original canvases (and two sculptures) that originated from the black & white images of Fryd’s Homorphology series, featuring stunning, yet disturbing amalgamations of human body parts. Another layer of depth has been added by Mikael B’s ethereal and colorful cloudscapes. In conjunction with designer toy and fabrication studio Pretty In Plastic, two of the Homorphology photos have been turned into sculptures, which Mikael B painted in his signature style.
    NEOON 40x70 Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
    Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
    The process of making “Emerging Alchemy” began with the portraits created in Thomas’ Copenhagen studio, where he performs skilled post-production manipulation, transforming the figures into elegant, impossible images more like avant-garde sculpture than human anatomy. He passed these high-resolution pictures to Mikael, who added layers of digital art culled from his graphic design background, before printing the files on canvas and taking them to his studio in Hollywood Hills. From there, Mikael used his full tool kit of acrylics, spray paint, markers, lettering and street-inspired bravado – and the end result is pure alchemy.
      ZOUL 50x40 Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
      Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
      “Emerging Alchemy,” is not only combining their two very disparate mediums, but evolving both of the artists into territory neither of them have worked in before.
        Some Background...
          “Fusion” is a prevalent theme in all Thomas Fryd’s work. From the fusion of bodies seen from a distance, as biological studies – to the fusion of fates and histories in the desire to reach a greater recognition. As a photographer, Thomas Fryd has always been a part of the technological evolution, from the darkrooms’ small experiments to the revolutionary software of the late 90’s. He has combined the future of digital possibilities with his many years of experience in the world of commercials and still photographs.
            In Homorphology, Fryd wishes to challenge our relationship with the real or authentic: man’s manipulation of reality, the desire for constant change. Intellectual. Short-term. He also contrasts that sentiment with the stubborn maintenance of our own perceptions, our own stories and versions of events. Reality is manipulated to take on an abstract form. All references arise from the world of biology. The artist makes his observations for his studies as for any biological study through the ages. Man, as we understand him, takes on a new form. The word “Homorphology” derives from the words Homo, meaning human, and Morphology, from the Greek word for “studies of shapes”.
              Future: Metamorfose Controversia is series are images where two people’s conflict comes to expression in a manipulated fusion and by that, a single unity arises. The exhibition evolves trough-out a number of years in destination and in time. It is based on local and global conflicts of private, social, cultural, religious or political character, to make the nonmaterial conflict’s energy material through photography; two inconsistent values united in one from two people-one photo balancing the surreal to real. The project’s premise is to acknowledge that us humans, no matter starting point, creates a common third, where mutual conflicts arises.
                Laila=Eva; The at all times, internal conflict between men and women
                Laila=Eva; The at all times, internal conflict between men and women
                Mikael B.'s is an extremely passionated artist's fascination with any tool that could bring him closer to discovering a visual expression: Colors, lettering, spray paint, brushes, acrylics, markers, digital art. His fascination stems from the first tentative illustrations originating from his wildstyle graffiti and a graphic designer’s with the endless possibilities in the digital world equating to versatile conceptual art. The pieces are created out of nothing. Art is the space, the oasis where Mikael feels vibrant and playful. He is structured in form and emancipating source of power and energy.
                  Art series, "Abstract Maps" where the color usage is involved and maps of the world, combining color and typography to create North America, Europe and so on… Within those there are variations such as the World Of Life Series which focus’ on text Mikael is combines his design aesthetics into conceptual buyable art. World Of Life is based on positive impactful life quotes from writers, presidents, poets and life coaches that the artist selected to inspire everyday living.
                    World Maps Design
                    World Maps Design
                    While Thomas's photography conceptual focused black and white photography which manipulates subject stirs a strong audience reaction, Mikael jaunts emotion through color. Both are clean and minimal in presentation; though their work seems worlds apart when viewed individually, the combination of the two is certainly flawlessl in execution and incredible in both scope and medium.
                      The idea for the collaboration project first began to form in Denmark, where Thomas and Mikael are from. Two very different artists, in some ways complete opposites in medium as in style, the two describe knowing right off the bat that they had work to do together and how the process took shape over the course of the last eight months when I went to interview them over at the gallery.
                        Mikael B & Thomas Fryd_
                        Mikael B & Thomas Fryd_
                        How did you meet?
                          MB: We met in Copenhagen through mutual business connections. Sharing the same offices and came to know each other. We didn’t work together. He was aware that I did fine art and I knew that Thomas did this amazing allocation of human bodies. I was doing some research and something told me I should be doing something with Thomas, so I reached out to him and we met up.
                            TF: Mikael called me up and asked me to this collaboration and then flew to Copenhagen from LA.
                              MB: And we talked for a full day and we were all ready excited.
                                TF: first when we talked I couldn’t see it, yeah I’ll give you some of my pictures?
                                  Is there anyone else that you know that has done this?
                                      TF: But the funny thing was that he’s opened up for things that I’ve done before, that I really wanted to go back to but for some how forgot because I’ve done so many different things. I’ve done film and things like that but as we talked I just felt that I really wanted to go back to things that I created in the beginning of the 90’s. And everybody has told me, you should go back to that style but I couldn’t see it. Things change and you try different things but something (snap) clicked and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
                                        MB: There is that part and then the other part is there is an amazing energy and passion that we could share in the room working together and then we just kept forming new ideas, and then that’s how we thought of doing the sculptures. Like how would it look if you saw that painting from behind, from the side.
                                          TF: I’ve always wanted to do sculptures in the 90’s but I thought it would be impossible, I thought you would have to make a 3D scan of the model and all this other stuff, so I said “Im gonna work on that when I get old because it’s a totally new thing but then Heidi actually gave us a connect and was like you know it’s totally possible to do it. So it was fun. I think the pictures I gave Mikael are two different styles, one were really nice and then I also gave him pairs of test pictures with the hands. I wanted to make a contrast because of the Homorphology series. So half of it should be a little grotesque and make people feel a little sick.
                                            I don’t feel anything grotesque. I found them to be beautiful because of the way you morphed the parts of the body together so flawlessly.
                                              TF: Well these have all different shapes morphed in one body.
                                                So you made a print and then transferred onto canvas?
                                                  MB: Yes, but there is also a bridge between the digital and acrylic and spray paint because Thomas has all the high resolution pictures in black and white and then I actually do something to the skin tones. Some photoshopping, you can see –
                                                    Then Mikael photoshopped on top of Thomas’ photoshopped images?
                                                        MB: It’s just changing a little bit of the contrast. You can see the skin tones change on different places of the body, they become lighter in areas and darker in others, all on purpose. I think both Thomas and I work very conceptual so it’s getting the idea, the color theme, the story of the picture, like every piece has it’s own story and it’s own name and it’s own color scheme. In order to create that bridge between his photo and my very different style with vibrant colors and all the movement, the painted swirls and everything, it was important to me to see it as a whole piece. So this small discreet color tones on the skin and then print it on the canvas and then continue with layers of acrylic and spray paint and finish it up that way.
                                                          So this is a big process?
                                                            TF: I think for this series I took maybe three thousand photos. And I worked on them. I had so many different shapes and body languages, positions so I wanted to do about ten or twenty. So I worked on it for three weeks constantly, day and night. Couldn’t sleep.
                                                              MB: We were skyping all the time.
                                                                TF: Yeah because of the time difference (between LA & Denmark, 9 hours difference) so he called me up every night, everything had to be in his time zone. (laugh) I work so well at night, I brought all my gear home and locked the doors and told my clients I’m not available.
                                                                  The fact that this took a month is pretty amazing in itself.
                                                                    TF: Well I’ve done it all my life so I knew exactly what I wanted. It was like everything was done before. I asked the model just to move and I shot freehand.
                                                                      This is the same person throughout the series?
                                                                        TF: it’s just one girl. And actually everytime I told her to do something, she does the opposite. So it’s not controlled. Every photo is two different images merged together.
                                                                          M: So it took him a month to what we would call the starting point, because there is a very long process from there. But he gave me like 8 pictures from the start. And then I took them and printed them.
                                                                            T: I gave him two at first and then I knew which path I was going to take. I wasn’t finished with it but I shipped it over to Mkael so he could have an idea of what to do with the colors. We had a mutual idea. I think the thing you can say about our relationship? Collaboration is that we actually think the same thing. So it’s easier when you see it on canvas.
                                                                              MB: That doesn’t mean that we don’t have any arguments.
                                                                                    TF: so it’s a process you know. Sending photos back and forth, back and forth. It was eight months ago that we talked and came up with the idea and then we worked up until the show opened.
                                                                                      MB: it was really concentrated.
                                                                                        TF: it was great to share the same idea actually almost from the beginning. When we had the meeting in Copenhagen I was a little hesitant. I couldn’t see it actually, you were a little bit ahead of me.
                                                                                          You were putting down the foundation for him.
                                                                                            TF: Yeah, exactly – I had to build up something.The funny thing is I didn’t know what to expect from him, maybe I had something in my head, but when I saw his work I was like YES!
                                                                                              And you knew Thomas’ work prior?
                                                                                                MB: Thomas is like one of the most world famous, photoshopped images of the world that went viral in the 90s.
                                                                                                  TF: You said something, I was like what do you mean? When somebody else has a picture in their head and they tell you. You tend to think of things you’ve seen before. And I was like which category, what are you thinking youre gonna paint on my pictures? What pictures?
                                                                                                      TF: But then you said, black and white and then bodies. And I wanted to do something grotesque with this model, like add some things coming out of the spine, I was thinking a little more of an “Alien” thing. But then, it was just the way he said it, that made me understand and I shipped the first round of photos to him. It was pretty fun. It was like everything was done before, it’s like when you hit the right path, you just do it.
                                                                                                        MB: I could also see a lot of similarities in our work. Even though we are so different we still walk along the line of the grotesque and the beautiful but I have my own version and he has his own version in two different worlds, but it’s still the same path in two different worlds that are meant to blend.
                                                                                                          MIIST 60x40 Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
                                                                                                          Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
                                                                                                          I think you have a really nice flow with Mikeal’s painting on top of your prints. The body is morphing in the image then adding the color paint and spray flows with the shape. There’s just a natural flow.
                                                                                                            TF: We had some energy going on.
                                                                                                              Theres a lot of energy in every piece. The usage of color, strokes combined with the photograph allows your eye to constantly move.
                                                                                                                MB: I never felt at any moment that I didn’t have any inspiration to create because every time I got a new image from Thomas , I got new ideas because it was a new shape and he found some new crazy stunning way to merge the body parts together and that’s how I got the ideas of the movement. I did a lot of sketching, and did a lot of the paintings like I would paint a wall with my graffiti letters. I saw shapes, like a flow, swirls, spinning, swinging, all that Im used to doing with my graffiti I saw in his shapes.
                                                                                                                  What did you use?
                                                                                                                    MB: spray paints and acrylics, splatter it and when its dry I put the painting flat on the ground and I do the drips so they wont run down.
                                                                                                                      TF: Sometimes Mikael uses a lot of power and sometimes he is very detailed.
                                                                                                                        MB: Tiny details and then splatters and stains.
                                                                                                                          TF: I loved being in the studio watching him work on the pieces and seeing the amount of effort and time.
                                                                                                                            How long did each piece take?
                                                                                                                              TF: If we did one, I would say one day in the studio and if I had to make a new body to give you, I would have to work maybe four days on it and you would paint on that for maybe two weeks or something?
                                                                                                                                MB: No, so the thing is I do the initial sketching, I print out his picture and just draw on it with like pencil. And then I think of my color themes like which I want to combine and contrast. When I have that set I would start to do it on canvas. It’s a process, sometimes ill go paint a wall and then come back to the painting.
                                                                                                                                  Did you sketch all of them prior to painting on them or one by one?
                                                                                                                                    MB: I don’t do one by one and the sketches are more like a guideline because I go with the flow. I just start seeing things, shapes when I stop and start again.
                                                                                                                                      Would you print it again?
                                                                                                                                        MB: No. Every painting is printed once. That’s why I like to do my homework but that doesn’t mean I have like very strict guidelines that I follow. Just very well prepared with the colors and shapes and then I just take it from there.
                                                                                                                                          TF: That’s what’s different about us, because I’m not prepared at all.
                                                                                                                                            So you are the yin and to his yang?
                                                                                                                                                IGLOO 40x20 Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
                                                                                                                                                Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
                                                                                                                                                As Mikael sees it, “We mix the beautiful and recognizable with the grotesque and unexplainable to achieve an aesthetically perceived unreality.”
                                                                                                                                                  Los Angeles based Project Gallery opened its doors in 2012 with an intent to bring a distinct and unique voice to the community. In a very short time, the gallery has lived up to its commitment to present diversified and compelling programming and has showcased the brightest in both emerging and established Art and Photography. “Emerging Alchemy” will be exhibited at Project Gallery’s new location at 1625 17th Street, Suite 2A, Santa Monica, CA 90404. The show originally was set to close June 11th has now been extended.
                                                                                                                                                    DROOM 40x40 Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
                                                                                                                                                    Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
                                                                                                                                                    Thomas’s originality and meticulous craft has catapulted him into one of the most known fashion and editorial photographers in Denmark, and with his early adoption and sophisticated mastery of Photoshop, is responsible for some of the most circulated images in the entire world. He created many of the viral memes in the early days of the internet before such a concept had even been named. With Homorphology, Fryd has deployed his skills to create mind-bending figures that are simultaneously sexy and disturbing. Mikael B’s work has always combined the precise vision of a graphic designer and art director with the influences of abstract, iconic wild-style graffiti art that enamored him as a child. Since the first time he picked up a can of spray-paint, Mikael B knew he was destined to come to America to pursue a career as a street artist, and obsessively practiced his craft in preparation of the day. His influences can be seen strongly in his part of “Emerging Alchemy.”
                                                                                                                                                      Mikeael B
                                                                                                                                                              Thomas Fryd
                                                                                                                                                                      Pretty in Plastic | Julie Beezy
                                                                                                                                                                                Project Gallery
                                                                                                                                                                                          "ASTER" 65x45 Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd
                                                                                                                                                                                          Photo Credit: Thomas Fryd