Johan Engqvist: Untitled

Johan Engqvist

Artwork’s Title: Untitled

Materials Used: Oil on canvas

Studio Based: Gothenburg, Sweden

Johan Engqvist, Untitled, 2019, oil on canvas, 125 x 115 cm

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

The painting process itself is quick. I want the work to be made in one clear, distinct gesture. I don’t want there to be visible traces of me trying to work things out. The process of solving painterly problems is extremely interesting, but it is not what I am looking to display. Therefore, quite a lot of time goes into sketching, trying to solve as many problems as I can before I move on to the actual canvas, so that I can nail it in one go.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Flags, signs, interior.

Would you use another three different words to describe the (title) painting?

Pattern, sharp, flat.

How did you come up with this painting idea? Is there any story behind this painting?

The pattern on the canvas is inspired by the type of patterns that are used to decorate domestic and public spaces. In Sweden for example, similar patterns are very common in the staircases of apartment buildings, corridors, waiting rooms and so on. Since I am interested in paintings (and fine arts) relation to domesticity and to the decorative, I am constantly collecting imagery like that.

What colour is used the most in this painting?

Cadmium red mixed with Vermillion Red. The grey background was applied beforehand.

Is there any particular message that you wish your viewers can take from this painting?

I am not looking to communicate a particular message, I want my work to stay open ended. But I do want it to be able to give associations and connect with an audience. Mainly through the imagery I use and the way I present it. For example: a particular type of aesthetic or visual language can prove to be symbolic of, let’s say, a certain type of urban environment or a certain type of home, and thus also of things such as social status and class. This makes recognition an important aspect of my work.

What would be the best way to exhibit your work?

My whole practice very much orbits around exhibition making. Each painting is made with an idea about how it will relate to other works. The paintings are parts of an installation idea as much as they are individual pieces. This painting for example was, when last exhibited, hung next to a mural with a similar pattern which was made specifically for that exhibition.

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

Among contemporary artist, the Los Angeles based painter Laura Owens has had a big impact. Right now though, Marc Camille Chaimowicz is the one I look at the most. Going back a bit further in time, Matisse is a favourite too.

How do you know when this painting was finished?

When it becomes real obvious why I wanted to make it in the first place.

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?

Always a bit more messy than I would like it to. My paintings are often quite slick, but my work space isn’t. I am constantly thinking about how to exhibit my work, so I change the space around quite a lot in order to try different things out. Every now and then I do a proper cleaning, repaint the walls, and sort of reset the space. That usually happens after an exhibition.

What does your mum think about your art?

She loves it, but I suspect she would regardless of what it looked like. She is a very loyal person.

Which exhibition did you visit last?

Sara Anstis’ solo show at NEVVEN Gallery in Gothenburg. Good artist and good venue! 

Which are your plans for the near future?

There were plans for a group show in Gothenburg in the summer, but with everything going on right now, it may not be realized. Other than that, I will mainly be working towards my MA degree in 2021.

*Born 1990 in Vänersborg. Lives and works in Gothenburg. BFA at Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, MFA at Valand Academy of Fine Arts.

Additional works:

Johan Engqvist, Spaces made sacred, 2020, exhibition view, Gallery Rotor2, Gothenburg
Johan Engqvist, Spaces made sacred, 2020, exhibition view, Gallery Rotor2, Gothenburg
Johan Engqvist, Spaces made sacred, 2020, exhibition view, Gallery Rotor2, Gothenburg

© All images are courtesy of the artist

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