Fashion designer turned artist Magnus Gjoen is known for his use of historical images and differing mediums. Often seen breathing new life into old works, he is an artist to watch and the latest to feature on our ‘Art Related Nonsense‘ podcast.
Formerly a designer for Vivienne Westwood, “the art just began to take over” he tells me. It was the moving of home which really convinced him that he could make it as a full time artist. “I moved into a new flat in south London and i wanted to find some art to put on the wall. I looked around and decided that I’d do it myself.”
Never looking back, the fashion design and art competed for a while. Before, seven years ago, the art won out as he chose to throw himself completely into his works. It wasn’t a straight-forward decision. “I’m one of those people, I enjoy going into the office in the morning and greeting people. I’m one of those really annoying people, I smile from ear to ear on Monday morning.” Moving from that environment to a more solitary one is something that he seems to have gotten used to.
THE FRAGILITY OF LIFE
He talks a lot about the fragility of life when discussing his work. One of his most recent pieces, a porcelain skull with a pattern of blue flowers is a good example. Both the medium and the pattern are representative of it. “I think as humans we can relate to them quite easily” he says of his skulls, “we have this fascination for the dead and the afterlife.” On the use of porcelain, “It’s like the fragility of the human mind and something that is quite strong and scary also usually has a fragile side to it as well.”
Much of his work uses previous more historic artworks which he incorporates and re-imagines into a new concept. Essentially breathing new life into the pieces. In his studio piles of old books sit full of etchings whilst an 18th century painting of a vase of flowers stands propped up against the wall. He’ll often buy works like this at auction, sometimes with only a vague idea as to how he will use it, but at some point he will.
INCORPORATING THE ORIGINAL
The still life is something that he’s already made use of in a number of works, often as a background or incorporated in some other way. “There are a lot of artists who tend to destroy art as they kind of modernise them by painting things on top of art or old pieces” he tells me. “But I try to keep the original as it is so that you can also compare the two at the end, this is the original and this is what you’ve done with it to make it your own and also make it something still beautiful without feeling that you’ve massacred a painting.”
Magnus Gjoen was interviewed in June 2018 at his studio in London Fields. The interview is part of the ‘Art Related Noise (formerly Nonsense)’ series of podcasts with Enter Gallery (formerly Art Republic).