“The right words can be like good medicine,” says the Danish artist and practising psychotherapist, Johan Deckmann. Best known for his series of imaginary self-help guides, Deckmann combines humour, observation and accessible visual language to tackle everyday existential dilemmas.
Born in Copenhagen, Deckmann has been creating paintings and sculptures since the 1990s, although his trademark handbooks first appeared in 2014. Old editions sourced from second-hand stores and antiques shops are re-worked by painting imaginary titles and silhouetted figures on their covers. “The idea of writing on books comes partly from my work as a psychotherapist, a music composer and lyricist. I like the idea of distilling words to compress information, feelings or fantasies into an essence, a truth,” Deckmann explains.
The books’ subdued shades and visible textures recall vintage self-help guides from the 1960s and 1970s, while Deckmann’s pithy expressions spotlight the irony, beauty and tragedy of daily life. “I want to stimulate the imagination of the viewer and maybe even bring some awareness. I want the words to be like mirrors.”
Since his first group presentation at the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition 2016, Deckmann has shown in Copenhagen, Rome and Amsterdam, and will exhibit in New York and Miami during 2017.