The Graphic Art of Johan Bjorkegren

Johan Bjorkegren was born in 1978 and studied at the Stockholm Art School as well as KV Artschool Gothenberg and Beckhams College of Design. Much like his Swedish surroundings, Johan Bjorkegren’s work is cold, dark and beautiful. Images of leafless trees, starry nights and ominous mountains contrast with the naïve and friendly sketches of little girls and boys.  These little girls and boys are often lost or lonely in the landscape, perhaps in an empty room or a stark forest. It is this contrast of vulnerability and desolation that makes Bjorkegren’s work so appealing.

The shaky lines and heavy contrast of the little children are reminiscent of the work of the underground comix movement and the likes of Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton, artists Bjorkegren cites as important influences in his work.

The little girl who makes so many appearances in Bjorkegren’s work is his self-confessed alter ego. It is his way of including himself in the landscape and exploring the themes of vulnerability, isolation and decay. She has a double-edged quality about her, sweet and sorrowful.

Bjorkegren’s work is not heavily laden with meaning. He is not overly concerned with the receiver or sending a message to the viewer. Bjorkegren prefers to let his ideas and vision stream through his pictures. He is more interested in creating a visual mood and feeling rather than tell a story.

For him it’s more about the action of the drawing, the etchings. The endless repetition of pencil on paper is important to Bjorkegren, describing it as ‘a slow suicide, boring yourself to death with a very, very big drawing’.

Many of Bjorkegren’s works depict an unusual combination of textured, hewn backgrounds and finely executed subjects, seen here in the feathery trees and molten moon. There is often an element of animated playfulness in so many of his works and yet there is always a pervasive melancholy and loneliness the viewer cannot escape.

Bjorkegren’s influences seem to fall outside of the artistic sphere and lie rather in the music he enjoys and the films he watches. ‘I like to pick and steal from everything I like’ says Bjorkegren, and goes on to mention that his biggest artistic influences have been underground comics like Robert Crumb and vintage landscape paintings and illustrations and the films of Alejandro Jodorovsky and Werner Herzog.

Bjorkegren prefers to work primarily with charcoal lead pencils of various thicknesses and hardness, preferably Rotring on Mowhawk superfine paper and yet chooses ink (Pelikan) and Invercote paper for most of his commissioned work.

Illustration for Ful magazine on Fanatasy, 2009

Bjorkegren’s work can be seen in magazines, design sites, promotional material and CD covers. He loves graphic design, typography and working with texts and illustration.  Bjorkegren says ‘I’m now looking out to make a book cover, that would be interesting.

Lara Cory has recently completed her first novel and she has a food blog. She has always been interested in music, writing, art, film and books. She studied Communications and Music and lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two small boys.

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