Johan Deckmann: Art as Therapy
Copenhagen-based Artist, Psychotherapist, and Author, Johan Deckmann (1976-) produces work that delves into the complexities of life, through amusing and wittily fabricated book titles that are painted onto fictional self-help books. Deckmann’s art presents us with a hybrid between paintings, poetry, and psychology. Recognizing the immense capability of language in both therapy and art, Deckmann’s work forces the viewer to self reflect. “I use the strengths from both of my fields, both creatively and intellectually to create a synergy that I would not otherwise be able to develop. Be aware of that duality within yourself.”
Sourced from second-hand bookstores, Deckmann works with previously owned books, glues the pages together, and paints the book covers with satirical and thoughtful titles in black lettering. The books are sealed shut, therefore, it is entirely up to the viewers to conceive the book’s content from the fabricated, comical titles. Deckmann explains that once he began writing these book titles, “it became clear to me that this kind of visual expression was a natural continuation of my way of thinking”
Deckmann’s psychological practice and background is fundamental and central to his work, inspiring and providing the content, and furthermore, serving as a steady reminder of personal responsibility. A remarkable feature of Deckmann‘s work is the relatability of the book titles, regardless of gender, cultural background or age. Titles such as “How to disappoint and just keep disappointing – Disappointment made easy” as well as “How to keep being annoyed by problems you keep ignoring” (2019) can echo with many people. Rather than solely presenting the sinister aspects, his work is made playful by adopting language that you may find on an instruction kit. Deckmann argues that for him, “humor is an essential characteristic if you want to stay, not only sane but also happy. Humour is somehow the instrument of the light-hearted.” The connection between his work, psychology, and his life is rational and thought out. The works reflect his perception of life with all its beauty, humor, fear, meaning and lack of meaning, but most importantly, he showcases ruthless honesty.
For several of his artworks, Deckmann pairs small and large books next to one another in the form of satirical diptychs, for example, the work “Perfect Fantasies” (2019). This piece places a large book titled ‘Perfect Fantasies’ next to a smaller book with the title ‘Perfect Realities’ thus commenting on the notions of false hope and optimism in our society. The words are crucial to his work, as he states that “The right words can be like good medicine,…I want my works to be like mirrors. When you look at them you might not like what you see but like a mirror, you now get the awareness and the chance to change something…”
Though many of his works are humorous, Deckmann is still able to highlight and draw attention to the irony and tragic nature of our daily lives and what we often do to ourselves. These works aim to entertain yet also bring awareness and stimulate the imagination of the viewer, “As I see it, the other half of my work happens in the mind of the audience, depending on his or her imagination.” states Deckmann.