Johan Deckmann is a Copenhagen-based artist, practicing psychotherapist and author, whose works examine the complications of life through witty one-liners painted on the covers of fictional “self-help” books. These book titles, though often filled with scathing satire and humour, tackle life’s biggest questions, fears, and absurdities.
At what point did you decide to create art that stems from your psychological practice? Was there a specific moment?
I was reading a beautiful old copy of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness when I realized that words would become my artistic tool. I made my first book piece that day. You might think that my concept originates from handbooks but that’s not the case. I’m simply deeply fascinated by the power of words and their ability to cut to the core. However, the main focus of my work is on my audience’s ability and desire to reflect on my works and maybe make a change for the better.
Can you briefly explain your work process?
I work wherever I go. I take notes on paper, on my phone. I reflect on human behavior in my psychological practice as well as anywhere else. So the main process of my work is the reflecting, writing, the calculating of words. When I finally hit the studio the next part of my process is to line up the drafts that contain subjects that moves me the most. I actually spend a lot of time deciding how to give the very best of myself every time I present something new.
How do you tackle the fact that your work is humorous but also deals with serious life issues?
For me these two things go hand in hand. I believe that humor and self-irony are a necessity to deal with the wonder and mystery of being.
Can you describe the type of awareness your work might bring?
I think it’s the type of awareness that you experience in your mirror. You might like what you see or you might not. But when you become aware of your behavior and that you could behave differently, do you react?
How have you changed as an artist with the rising efforts of technology and social media?
Previously, I worked with paintings and sculpture. I only used the words in poems and as a songwriter. I didn’t use social media in connection with my art before I started my book series. So my series and my style have developed in close collaboration with social media. I actually feel very grateful for this synergy.
Do you feel like your audience has changed through the progression of pop culture and rise in tech/social media?
No, but maybe in time.
Do you see a reflection of yourself in your work?
Although I sometimes deal with issues that I can’t relate to, my works will always be a reflection of myself because I choose to highlight these issues in my way. On the other hand, some of my works are very personal and describe some of the themes in my own life. It actually hurts selling some of my works because I only make them one time. I feel like these words are only to be written one time.
What is one thing you always have in your studio? Is is something surprising we would find in your studio?
My old acoustic guitar and a dumbbell.
Where do you look for inspiration? News outlets, social media, personal experiences, friends, family?
Everything inspires me, because my art is about everything related to life. Conversations, songs on the radio, people who treat other people well, idiots, the condition of the world, your questions in this interview.
What are some of your favorite phrases you have used in your work?
“How to feel the way you felt before you knew what you know now”.
Partnering with Guy Hepner gallery in New York City, we’re pleased to offer an exclusive collection of 12 unique works from the artist through the gallery. Each framed book is a unique presentation, framed at 14x17 inches. The collection is available to purchase Thursday July 25th at 2PM EST.
Interested in works from Johan Deckmann? Get in touch with questions and inquiries at email@example.com