By Maheen Ahmed
Johan Deckmann is a Copenhagen-based artist, practicing psychotherapist and author, whose works examine the complications of life through one-liners painted on the covers of fictional “self-help” books.
Recognizing the power of language in both therapy and art, Deckmann successfully forms simple phrases that compress information, feelings or fantasies into an essence, and a truth that has an effect that is very similar to therapy.
In a brief encounter with ILS magazine, he talks about his career and success.
What have you been up to as of late?
I’ve been working on a series of paintings for an upcoming show at Maki Gallery in Tokyo. I’ve been doing a lot of works on books and I’m in the process of transitioning to large-scale paintings.
So, how does such an iconic artist spend his day? Are you able to work in regular life around projects?
I start my day by running, exercising and reading. Even though I currently look like a homeless long-bearded cave man (all hairdressers in Copenhagen are closed due to Covid) I actually live a healthy life.
You know, I appreciate being alive and I do my best to make this experience last. While the world changed around us all, things didn’t really change a lot for me. I still work in my studio and ship my works to galleries and collectors around the world.
What are your inspirations?
People like you and me. Life as we know it. Our strange behavior that’s taking place right before our eyes. I observe and reproduce in my own words. I aim to portray our obvious but unspoken behavior and habits, the things that irritate you about yourself to get closer to the truth. Your truth. Because I believe that truth heals. Sorry for revealing you. But I believe that’s the medicine.
You’re also a psychologist, and your work does evoke that, how do you think people generally react to the way too real titles?
As if they are looking into mirrors that reflect themselves or people they know. As an exhibition of artworks that describes themselves on a deeper level without the artist knowing them.
A lot of art or communities online are criticized for almost romanticizing depression and mental health, how can that be addressed in your opinion?
I think it’s ok to put on a dark or depressive attitude to emphasize what you want to express. Or if it adds something desirable to your identity. I have the deepest sympathy and respect for people who suffer from real depression or other mental illnesses or who are just overwhelmed by life as we know it.
But there is nothing attractive about being depressed or feeling that nothing makes sense or is worth living for.
So, I don’t think it’s ok to romanticize it. Life is a huge gift that we are lucky to experience. And life takes on many different faces.
Things like art, music and fashion might have a dark approach and represent a certain culture – like my own sarcasm – but to me, that can be full of life and energy. But to romanticize depression, to deliberately choose unhappiness, that doesn’t make sense to me.
Tell us about the dark humor that you like to incorporate?
I somehow inherited this kind of humor from my family. Denmark is actually known for its sarcasm and my family was no exception. So, it’s a part of me that I project into my works. I think humor is an important element of our survival if you can use it with respect as a well-chosen spice to your message.
I personally would have loved to read your titles if they were real, but would you ever consider writing a book? What would the title of that be?
I published my first real book in 2018. It’s an autobiographical book called “Johan’s Real Events”. Strange but true stories from my upgrowing. I have a manuscript in my desk for another book that’s not autobiographical.
It’s about the subconscious and it’s connection to our daily life. I have no plans to write a book with the topics from my works. If I ever should, I guess I would leave the title and maybe even the content to my audience.
How do you like to relax on a lazy day?
Oh, I love to find new artists and new music. I like to use Instagram and Spotify. And I love to stroll through the city and visit galleries. And I love the sea, to just lie down and enjoy the sun and listen to good music.
What should we be expecting from you in the future?
Paintings, installations, video art and further refinements of my art.