Hvass & Hannibal

In a music video for “Mirador,” the
gentle pageantry of Danish band Efterklang provides the soundtrack for
the trippy travels of a hieroglyphic-like birdman as he strides through
a series of quasi–Hieronymus Bosch pastel landscapes. As the
song’s rising chorus draws the birdman through a series of arched
doorways and into dark forests and subterranean villages before he pops
back into his pyramidal homeland, viewers see typical abstract forms
that populate many works by the Danish design-illustrator duo Nan Na
Hvass and Sofie Hannibal. Presented on their business card as
Hvass&Hannibal, the childhood friends are still undergraduates, a
remarkable fact considering their huge and highly visible output within
Copenhagen’s vibrant art and music scene. Their landscapes of
twilight forests, ploppy raindrops, and swirly
mountaintops—largely done in a teal-and-black-dominated
palette—elicit complex emotions and a weightlessness that can
pleasantly challenge one’s equilibrium. It’s been a banner
two years for H&H—their limited edition T-shirts and posters are
selling like hotcakes on Art Rebels; a mural commissioned by the local
nightclub Vega to adorn a wall for one month in 2006 has yet to be
painted over; and their psychedelic art has been exhibited in three
local shows. To top it off, in February, their CD artwork for Efterklang
won a Danish Grammy. For two students proclaiming to do design only part
time, it’s a sure bet that upon their graduation those open
doorways will only multiply.

What’s your most essential

HVASS: Photoshop! We would be quite lost without
the lasso tool.
HANNIBAL: And our Wacoms are totally

Who first taught you to draw or make art, and what
do you first remember drawing?

HVASS: My father encouraged
me to draw a lot from when I was very little. He made me keep a diary
every day, even before I could write—I was always supposed to draw
a little drawing to show how my day was.
HANNIBAL: I went to
an art school for children from the age of 10; before that, I drew a lot
of princesses.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing

HVASS: We’d be sad and lonely. We’d
probably be studying something else.

Is your work characteristic
of Denmark?

HVASS: We think there certainly are some
tendencies that are local, and some things going on that are “in
fashion” in one place and not in another. Maybe it’s hard
for us to see it ourselves. People we met while visiting Hawaii compared
us to other Danish designers, where we couldn’t really see the

Where would you most like to see your

HVASS: We did a few tattoos for friends, and that
flattered us a lot more than many other things we’ve done, because
it’s such an open sign of acknowledgment to want to have
someone’s artwork on your body—for life!
A gallery, definitely…we would like to do more work with art that
isn’t commissioned and isn’t commercial.

If you could
collaborate with one other artist, who would it

HANNIBAL: Keith Haring, David Bowie, Michel Gondry, to
name a few. We feel lucky to know a lot of talented people here in
Copenhagen that we can work with, like Turboweekend and

What’s your favorite museum?
HVASS: The Fiji Museum [in Suva]—the section on
cannibalism. Near home: Louisiana, a wonderful museum north of
Copenhagen, by the sea, with amazing exhibitions and a really pretty

What’s the number-one thing that gives you energy and
inspiration to keep making art?

HVASS: Each other! Seeing
other people’s artwork and liking it. Playing Kalaha [a form of
Mancala]. We play Kalaha when we are stuck and don’t know what to
do, or if we are too lazy to get started.

Do you have a motto or
favorite quotation?

HANNIBAL: Frank Zappa: “If we
can’t be free, at least we can be cheap.”