Artist interviews number 6, Magnus Gjoen. Having grown-up all-around Europe, Magnus has never settled in one location. In fact, on principle he tries to move location every four years. This interview in an insight into a thoughtful and reflective mind, as well as into the creative process of an exceptional artistic talent.
I was going to start by asking, what are your earliest memories relating to art? When did you first become aware of it as an idea?
“I had always been interested as a child. I think that my parents saw that in me quite quickly. They very much encouraged me to do extra-curricular activities. I remember that they made me go to painting classes, which I hated because I had to get up early on the weekends. Otherwise, they always took me to museums when we were on holiday, so that was really my first experience with the old masters.”
I feel like I had a similar experience. When I was younger, I was often taken around many art museums, although I can’t say that I enjoyed them at the time. Would you say that you got much from them even at that early stage in your life?
“I definitely agree. I don’t think that I could appreciate it as much as I do now. There was an instance though, where I remember my mother buying a lithograph on holiday. It was one of those things that resonated with me. From that point I started to understand or take interest in contemporary art. From there I understood that there was more than just old masters of painting.”
As I understand, you grew up between Switzerland, Denmark and Italy. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
“So, I was born in Surrey and grew up around there. I then also moved around between Switzerland and Copenhagen when I was a child. I also did three or four years in Norway between. It was very much a case of my family following my father’s work around. I’m not sure that it particularly broadened my horizons or anything. As an adult I find that I tend to get bored of a country after four or so years, and then move on to somewhere else. It’s funny actually, there is that quote “once you are bored of London you are bored of life.” I have been bored of London at least three or four times. I always feel that I come back though. Regardless, I always leave and then end up coming back again. That is sort of what I am doing at the moment, as I am going back and forth between London and Florence, Covid permitting.”
What is it that you look for in a new city?
“I just get bored really. I guess it is just the case that you often need new prospects, new surroundings, that kind of thing really. In the past I have gone between Bologna and London to solve that problem, but It looks like Florence is that place for the moment. I guess that you need a change of scene. I also know that during a pandemic I would prefer to be on an Italian hillside, rather than cooped up in a small flat in London.”
You say that you have been it both Bologna and Florence. Is it fair to say that you often find yourself gravitating back towards Italy?
“Yes, well I guess that it is because I am fluent in Italian, rather than Spanish or Portuguese. Those are two other two places I would love to go to more often.”
“There was an instance though, where I remember my mother buying a lithograph on holiday. It was one of those things that resonated with me. From that point I started to understand or take interest in contemporary art. From there I understood that there was more than just old masters of painting.”
As I understand, you studied both fine art and fashion design? Can you please tell me about those periods?
“I did a Bachelor’s in design and then moved to Italy for a gap year. I then did my Master’s in fashion design in Milan. I think that is when I started gravitating towards Italy, particularly as I had learnt Italian. After my master’s I then ended up working in fashion for fourteen years.”
Well can you tell me about how you changed from fashion to art then?
“Basically, I had bought a flat in London which had no decoration or art in it. The story then goes that I thought that I could do it all myself, so did just that. I made and hung up my own paintings. A friend of mine then saw these and was very impressed by them, so he recommended that I take my art further. It was really quite a quick turnaround, which I am sure annoyed plenty of other artists. One and a half years later I had to quit my job so that I could become a full-time artist. I could see that art was going to take more time than I had at that period. Fashion was going to take up too much time.”
Can you tell me about your thoughts of visual art in comparison to fashion?
“I really love fashion and I don’t think that it is right to separate the two from one another. Lots of the fashion work that I did had an artistic element to it. For example, many clothes have some sorts of prints on them. I definitely find that visual art has a tendency to stay with you for a lot longer. It gives much more than clothes you wear.”
I was going to ask also about where you drew your inspiration from, particularly when you were getting started in the art world?
“I don’t want to say mental health specifically, but that is always in the back of my mind, as my mother is a psychiatrist. I also like to try and include elements of religion. I am neither against nor for anything, but rather am commenting on those topics. I think that it is important to not take things at face value. It is definitely necessary to question what religion teaches us.”
As I understand, you work in a range of styles. I saw on you site that you try to combine pop aesthetics with fine art. Can you tell me a little about how you came up with that idea?
“It is not my idea really, rather than something I have decided to do. I really liked the idea of taking something old and then rejuvenating it, making it more contemporary. It is always fun to mix what has been done before with the contemporary. This isn’t a new idea. Andy Warhol, for example, was doing it, although not in the same way. I feel that this is important though, as old art is so expensive that it is seen as for the elite and unattainable. People want to see things that are more modern.”
Can you talk to us about the design you did for Pepita? What was your thought process at that time?
“Yes, so it was a print originally. The skulls come from the idea of Victorian England, as they were obsessed with skulls. A skull itself is one of these things that humans can relate to, as they are part of us. What I’m then doing is taking the idea of a still life (with the flowers) and am deconstructing it. Put onto the backdrop of the skull it makes you think that this is a ‘STILL-LIFE.’ You are also thinking about the idea of the flowers which will eventually die, as they are in a vase, rather than the ground. I suppose it is a juxtaposition between life and death.”
Lastly (but by no means least) how do you take your coffee?
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