beauty and destruction

The seemingly contradictory — as explored by Magnus Gjoen

Vanitas themes are wake-up calls of titanic proportions. They are necessary reminders of who we are, and the limited-period offer that life is. They come in all shapes and sizes, from medieval funerary art such as ars moriendi, memento mori to unique contributions such as the works of Magnus Gjoen.

But there is more to Gjoen’s digital art than that. He quite effectively messes with our preconceived ideas of beauty and apply them to dangerous, deadly and destructive items. The process of signification is complete when we suddenly want a hand grenade or rocket launcher on the wall, because of their ornate Dutch earthenware glazes. Next the abhorrent dichotomy hits your face.

the human mind itself is fragile yet beautiful and I use porcelain to comment on the fine balance that sometimes holds our societies and us together

Magnus Gjoen, 2013

Concept and finish

There are some strong concepts behind these works of art. But there is also a certain level of sophisticated craftsmanship to go along with it.

Whatever Gjoen actually does, it is convincing and has integrity. The emotional response feels real and the illusion of an object is complete. Indeed the works look like slick pack shots of luxury items produced in batches to enhance our lives aesthetically. You even notice the enhanced highlight on the skulls as if they were an advertiser’s blatant attempt to make his market offering more gloosy-looking. It is not even a stretch of imagination to think these objects have parallels to Apple for their finish or Nike for offering end consumers some predefined visual customisation options – as approved by a board of mercilessly shrewd branding professionals.

The artist’s background

Branding itself -or rather sitting on the other side of the table whilst being briefed by a brand – might provide us with a strong clue.

Wth an MA in Fashion, Gjoen has worked for brands such as Vivienne Westwood. Having studied in London and Milan, Gjoen like Andy Warhol has a design background that has made the entrance to the art world surprisingly effortless.

How the art is being conceived

Today he works as a full-time artist finding inspiration in war, religion and other aspects of the human condition. Here is what Gjoen has to say about his way of working:

I initially do a lot of research. If I get an idea I try to find out as much as possible about the subject. I try to get the viewer emotionally involved in my art. There is a lot of deeper symbolism and co-notations. Sometimes I start pieces and have to let them lie as I’m not happy with them. Then suddenly maybe a few months later I’ll be in a museum or on the street and I see something that triggers an inspiration on how to finish the piece. Often when I’m not inspired I will sift though reference material or go to museums. Usually however it starts with an idea and from there it’s defined or elaborated through research. Then it’s either onto my Mac or out with pencils or brushes to realise the “idea”.