Johan Deckmann’s Imaginary Book Titles

Poignant, humorous works from an artist who's also a psychotherapist

Much of Copenhagen-based artist Johan Deckmann’s work has the graphic (not to mention internet-friendly) appeal of text-based art, yet it manages to be both thought-provoking and poetic, as well as visually arresting. Most striking, his made-up book covers happen to convey plenty of good advice—for example, “To avoid thinking of death, I dance” and poignant, fun titles such as, “How to forgive but not forget but still forgive” and “It’s easy to sing in harmony with the voices in your head.” For this interview, Deckmann gave CH an exclusive look at his newest piece, “The New Sun,” as well as previously unpublished work.

Though many of my works are humorous, my aim is to spotlight the irony and tragic nature of our daily life and what we often do to ourselves.

Deckmann’s second career helps inspire the works—he’s also a psychotherapist, and it’s a combination that he says works perfectly. “Whether I’m practicing therapy or working as an artist, I’m uncovering some kind of truth and I consider that as a gift. I seek this curiosity, honesty and creativity in everything I do,” he tells CH. “I am deeply fascinated by the beauty and irony of being. I believe that humor and honesty are both crucial for a happy and healthy existence. Though many of my works are humorous, my aim is to spotlight the irony and tragic nature of our daily life and what we often do to ourselves. The goal is not only to entertain, but bring awareness and stimulate the imagination of the viewer.” He points out that the ways in which viewers perceive his artworks are unlimited. “As I see it, the other half of my work happens in the mind of the audience, depending on his or her imagination. Some might experience it as dark or disturbing, with the general theme of sanity vs. insanity, but I’m actually a very positive person, and maybe that’s how I find that balance.”

Deckmann has worked as an artist for years, and started doing his book series about a year ago. He finds the books in old bookshops, writes the titles in marker pen, and frames the covers. “As I started to write, it became clear to me that this kind of visual expression was a natural continuation of my way of thinking. Apparently, I’ve got an endless flow of phrases and illustrations, so I’m definitely going to continue making the books,” he says. As well as the books, he creates intriguing sculptures—like a faceless figure dressed in a suit, slumped on a chair, called “Just let It Go, Walter”—and says his future works will also feature words and illustrations on canvas. The artist’s dark sense of humor is reminiscent of David Shrigley’s musings, and the fact that many of his ideas are presented as books adds to their charm. After all, who wouldn’t want to know “Smart ways to use poetry in a street fight” or “1001 reasons to stay in bed: secrets of a horizontal lifestyle”?

When talking about future projects, Deckmann simply says he hopes to get lots of chances to exhibit his work and is continuing to focus on writing—an important part of the process. He says, “Ultimately, I want to create interesting, thought-provoking art, and put it in front of as many people as possible.”

Images by Johan Deckmann