Andreas Johansson


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
08 Sunday 08th July 2012

Andreas Johansson is the Swedish artist responsible for these reconstructured landscape fold-outs. Working photography into miniature installation and sculpture, he weaves a small-town passion for the gritty, decaying corners of anonymous cities with a delicate sense of escapism. We chat about the art teacher who started it all for him, how skate culture ties into his work today and just what it'll take to get him over to London for a show.

So Andreas, what first drew you into the world of art?

When I was growing up I was a really frustrated kid, playing in different hardcore punk bands and skateboarding. When I got to Sweden's equivalent of your A-levels I met an art teacher who understood that anger and frustration. He got me into painting. Soon I realised that I was better with pictures than with music; my motivation must have been anger and someone pointing me in the right direction.

There's a haunting and nostalgic element to your pop-up collage work. What message do you feel you're trying to put across? Why do you think it's important?

I don't want to tell anyone what's important or not when they look at my work but one of the things that interests me is the myth one creates around their life when building their persona, and how they look at their surroundings depending on who they want to be.

I was a skater and built my personality around that. I'm also from a small town in the woods so that became a problem because skatebording is a very urban thing. It made me realise that my friends and I needed to edit our surroundings in order to connect to the skater culture and feel part of it. We'd focus on a concrete block that could've been in Los Angeles and choose not to see the daycare centre on the other side of the street, because the daycare center didn't look like our idea of Los Angeles. So my work deals with a form of escapism, trying to be somewhere else but with the building blocks of my surrondings.

Which other artists inspired you to create?

I like so many but the most important ones must be Goya, Käthe Kolwittz, Francis Bacon and Thomas Demand.

How do you think your upbringing in Malmö affects your work?

I´m not actually from Malmö but it's where I live now. I'm from a town in Småland called Växjö and yes, it has affected my work a lot. Malmö was a big harbour town where everyone worked building ships. In the 80s the factories went bankrupt and the whole town died. When I left here were vacant lots and deserted areas everywhere - that´s when I started to work like this.

What attracts you to decaying and decrepid scenes?

Deserted areas are a good illustation of what I'm trying to get at. On one hand it is the harsh reality that most of the places that I photograph are so polluted that it's too expensive to clean up. It is a symbol of failure, that our system doesn't work. At the same time it is a place where you can feel a bit of freedom. Nobody cares what you do there so it was the most fun playground when you were a kid.

What new projects have you got coming up? We'd love to see your work in London!

I´m participating in a show in an old deserted iron factory that's been turned into an art space. It's in Avesta, Sweden. I have made an installation together with Lena Johansson, another artist - it's on this summer. It feels great to show in this space because it really corresponds with the work, so it's a lot of fun to show there. I would love to show in London. I lived there for a while a long time ago but I still have some friends there. Just hook me up with someone and I will be happy to show haha.

See more of Andreas' work here.

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