Magnus Gjoen is a fascinating artist creating powerful and beautiful images that have been proving very popular. As a designer for Vivienne Westwood he clearly has a great eye for a good image, using the masterpieces of some of most inspirational painters of all time such as Titian’s “Venus” and Holbein’s “Christ in the Tomb” as an integral part of his prints. Find out more as we delve deeper with our Q&A...
What or who are the main inspirations behind your work? I take inspiration from everywhere I go. Renaissance and Flemish masters and religion, but also popular culture, war and fragility inspire me.
Magnus Gjoen, "Titian Machine Gun" and Titian, "Venus"
How do you approach the actual making of a piece? I actually do a lot of research. I can have long periods without feeling inspired and then suddenly I get an idea. Digging deeper is an essential part of how I work. That’s when I usually come across something which makes my fingers itch and I get an idea.
What’s your medium? Prints & Fibreglass.
What themes do you pursue? Beauty, Religion, War, anything that I can put a little twist to.
Could you tell me a bit more about the paintings that you choose to create your images and what is the relationship between the Renaissance and Flemish works and your images of guns, beetles and skulls? I try to create something new, but from something that already exists. The choice of paintings is usually something that evokes a sentiment or an emotion in me. Putting these with other objects not only beautifies the object but makes you look at it in a different light. It might still be a gun, but it's now become more fragile and less aggressive. A painting was painted with a motive and reason behind and I try to take this into the 21st Century, with the knowledge and freedom of speech we have today. I don't think people should take things at face-value; there is often more behind which the painter or the person who commissioned it wants you to know. I simply comment that there are other ways of seeing things- it's not all black & white.
Magnus Gjoen, "Break Glass for Second Coming" and Holbein, "Christ in the Tomb"
Describe your work in 5 words. Thought Provoking, Surreal, Provocative, powerful, clever, meticulous.
Does the impact of the viewer influence your work and if so how? Very much so, I want to make art that people enjoy and which people comment on when they see.
What memorable responses have you had to your work? I recently won “Best in Show” when I exhibited at the Westbank Gallery in London. It was quite a surprise as there were quite a few artists and the guests voted.
What led you to become an artist? I actually started doing prints for my own flat when I moved. They got such a good reception that I decided to contact some galleries and the rest is history. My day-job as a fashion and graphic designer is of course creative but my art is closer to who I am and my own perception of beauty and comments on life.
What makes you angry? People who complain about unfairness in society, when they have no-one to blame but themselves.
Magnus Gjoen, "AK-47 Concert of Birds" and Frans Snyders, “Poseaux sur des branches”
When are you happiest? I’m happy most of the time. I’m happiest when I’m travelling or when I finish a piece of art.
What’s your favourite or most inspirational place? I travel a lot to Italy for work and try to visit as many museums and places of inspiration as possible. Italy can be awe-inspiring at times, both its cultural heritage and nature.
What superpower would you have and why? Invisibility. I’d love to see what people get up to when no-one’s looking.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to and why. I can’t reply to this without sounding up my own ass unfortunately.
In another life (if you weren’t an artist) what would you be doing? I have always wanted to be an architect.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? “Don’t make it too obvious” and “What do you want to do next”. They both make you think.
Magnus Gjoen, "Skull Victory Over Ignorance" and Sebastiano Ricci, Allegory of France: Triumph of Wisdom Over Ignorance”