Johan Deckmann is a danish Copenhagen based artist, born 1976. His main expression is words, often combined with simple illustrations using books as his canvas. He works with psychological og existential themes like life and death, sanity and insanity, gender and relationships, self and others, real and surreal, happiness, faith, the meaning of life and the grotesque. Often from a humorous angle. He also creates paintings and human-like sculptures.
At what age had you realized that books are going to become your inspiration & how you came up with the idea of putting text on covers?
The idea of writing on books comes partly from my work as a psychotherapist and as a music composer and lyricist. I like the idea of distilling words, to compress information, feelings or fantasies into an essence, a truth. I believe that the truth, or the closest you can get to the truth, is like good medicine. I believe that words has that releasing power. Just like in therapy. I also believe that therapy can happen anytime and anywhere you are open for it. It’s an interaction between a person and something else that makes sense. That could be another person, an animal or maybe your favorite spot by the lake. Not necessarily a therapist. Words in my head is like music and rhythm and just like in music I attempt to leave out the unnecessary tones.
How do you choose books for covers?
I find my books, my canvases, in old book and antique stores. Each book has a story of it’s own but I don’t use that in my work. I kind of give them a new reason to exist.
Can you tell us how do you feel as a psychotherapist? For example, the cover “How to make your own depressing memories”, where did the idea come from?
For me the connection between my work with psychology and my life as an artist is very logical. Somehow the weight of the words in the session leaves the practice and gets a life of their own disguised as art. But I never use any personal stories or cases. My works simply reflects my perception of life with all its beauty, humor, fear, meaning and lack of meaning, hopes, imagination and - again - truth and honesty.
How can you describe your feelings while making covers? What is the aim of your work?
My main process is the writing. My imagination is the place where I use my brush and spill my paint, where the scenes are taking place. The writing on the books are ‘just’ the actualization of the idea. The aim of my work is to inspire, to fertilize imagination, to bring awareness using a new kind of plot.
What is contemporary art in your understanding?
For me contemporary art is something that reflects the current tendencies in art or simply just happens during this current period. But at the same time it can be something all new, something you have never seen, heard, written, felt or tasted before. I think I miss a word that describes the kind of art or new combination of already existing things that has not yet been thought of or the kind of art that has not yet been discovered.
Have you ever thought of pushing the boundaries, to go ahead of book covers: walls/any random surfaces/garments? What is your attitude towards wall painting(graffiti)?
Yes, before the books i wrote on other objects. I’m currently working on some new pieces, including paintings and sculptures, where I’m challenging my approach to art with and without words.
Hm… Maybe a few words explaining your feelings about Russia? Do not avoid stereotypes!
I unfortunately don’t know that much about Russia but I have many friends that have visited Russia and loved it. Both the cultural riches and the magnificent nature. I hope that I someday get the opportunity to visit Russia. I have an upcoming group show in New York next year but I can’t mention the gallery yet.
“My works simply reflects my perception of life with all its beauty, humor, fear, meaning and lack of meaning, hopes, imagination and - again - truth and honesty.”
Johan Deckmann for CCULDESAC.