On a recent stroll in Copenhagen, I came across beautiful prints and ceramic pieces displayed in a the storefront called CAN FAMILY. I went inside and was greeted by Stine and Martin, a husband and wife team running the small gallery-store located on Tullingsagade. Stine noted that everything in the space was created by her, Martin, and their two daughters.
“Martin and I have been together for 22 years,” she begins, “and in 2004 our friend, who ran a bookstore here, decided to rent out a small room in the back. We were interested but didn’t really know what we would use the room for. Martin and I have always been drawing; he mostly did graffiti and I was more into collages, lithography, and copper print. We thought that it could have been fun to have a shop where we could bring all our hobbies together.”
“In the beginning, the place was really small but it was still getting noticed by different magazines and newspapers. I guess because the shop also functions as a gallery and does not really look like a normal gallery. We run this place together and our name CAN FAMILY means that we do all the stuff together as a family. There are several other reasons for the name CAN, including Andy Warhol’s soup can, the old German band Krautrock Can, and the hip-hop song by Treacherous Three. Our website is called yeswecancan.com and I have to say: we came up with it before Obama,” she says jokingly.
When I ask Stine about inspiration, she answers: “it is always hard to say what my inspiration is because when I say nature it sounds silly but it really is. Besides nature, I would say ghosts and color combinations. I am often inspired by different color combinations; I’ll start doing everything in those colors. For example ‘the hand paw’ which is a half human, half animal is seven years old; it’s a CAN classic. I don’t think I will ever stop creating with the paw.
I am also inspired by my grandparents. My grandfather was a sculptor and did iron sculptures in the ’60s and 70’s that you still can see all over Odense. We would always draw and talk about crazy fantasy stories. My grandmother used to be in charge of a studio called ‘Fyns Graphics Workshop’ where artists did copper print lithography. I often talk to my grandparents even thought they’ve passed away. They are always on my mind.”
Stine continues, “Martin and I like to do projects with our two daughters. Recently, we did a ghost photo series that revolved around the ghosts who haunt our home when our family is out of the apartment. They do human things like drinking coffee, reading the newspaper, and doing the dishes. It’s a bit spooky but also ridiculous and childish. We’ve been talking for years now about finding a family like ours to swap both the gallery and home for half a year; that would be a dream!”
I ask about the vertical eyes and facelessness that is a feature of many of their pieces. “When I try to paint the faces, they look terrible, so that’s why I don’t do it,” Stine laughs. “But they’re also faceless because they are neither happy nor sad. As for the vertical eyes, when I tried to create the eyes in a normal way, I didn’t like how it looked and thought, how can I fix this? Martin suggested stacking the eyes on top of each other. I was like, yes! Perfect! So it was Martin’s idea. Now sometimes when I look at a normal face I see how those eyes would look stacked on top of each other; it’s very amusing!”
As Stine and I chat, Martin has been playing music in the gallery. CAN FAMILY sells records as well as art, and both collections are equally eclectic. Martin says, “My interest in art and music comes from my hip-hop background. As a kid, I found out that much of the hip-hop I liked combined soul, funk, and jazz, so I became interested in those genres. I was also into graffiti and street art, but as you get older you don’t want to run around the streets at night,” Martin laughs.
He goes on, “in 1999, I opened up a vintage sneaker and record shop with two friends. But since 2004, it’s been about CAN FAMILY. We have a more diverse and eccentric collection than a normal record shop; fewer in quantity but definitely unique. What’s been amazing is that some of my childhood heroes such as Lord Finessse, Diamond D, and Large Professor have all been in this shop to buy records. When we first opened the store, this neighborhood wasn’t trendy; over the years high-end boutiques like Wood Wood and Soulland opened; all of a sudden it was hip to be here. I think shops like these helped the neighborhood to become more interesting, even though the rent prices have gone up. Business is still going pretty well both in terms of records and art because we always did the same thing, we never changed anything.”
CAN FAMILY is an experiment it what it means to be an artist, and to be part of a family. The work they showcase is consistently interesting, humorous, and engaging. It’s a special space that is both a store and a gallery, but the underlying foundation is about exploring the CAN FAMILY relationships, and that’s what makes it unique in the landscape of Copenhagen’s art world.
1618 København V
Sun – Tues Closed
Weds – Fri 12:00 – 5:30 pm
Sat 11:00 am – 3:00 pm