Hvass & Hannibal
CD cover for Efterklang’s Parades (and the opening scene of its “Mirador” video), 2007. Client: The Leaf Label.
lives in Copenhagen, Denmark
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 tool? HVASS: Photoshop! We would be quite lost without the lasso tool. HANNIBAL: And our Wacoms are totally indispensable.
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 this? 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 resemblance.
Where would you most like to see your work? 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! HANNIBAL: 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 be?
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 Efterklang.
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 garden.
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.”