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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Artist Interview with Johan Björkegren

Johan Björkegren's talks to Amelia's Magazine about how his landscapes and portraits explore an idea of the 'ugly' frequently championed by the comic artist Robert Crumb.

Written by Sally Mumby-Croft

Stephanie Jayne Price‘s slick, more about futuristic collection at Northumbria University‘s Graduate Fashion Week show was a real winner – combining masculine tailoring with feminine quirks. I loved the lines that the creations formed, stuff and the sophistication of each of the pieces – so much so that I couldn’t wait to have a chat with Miss Price and find out what is was all about.

What are the benefits of showing at Graduate Fashion Week?
GFW is an excellent platform for young designers to exhibit work to the industry. It’s a great opportunity to see what the other schools have been up to and ultimately the future of British fashion. For the individual it provides a chance to show your collection to a much wider audience. After spending a year putting your heart and soul into your work, and GFW offers a prestigious and professional setting to exhibit your work. It’s a real honour!

?Northumbria students put on a show at the Baltic in Newcastle before heading for Earl’s Court – how did the two venues compare?
Oh the Baltic is a wonderful space! I have such a soft spot for it! It was our first fashion show, and it was the entire year; only 25 show at GFW, so it was a really nice way to see all the collections together. After seeing bits and bobs around the studio it is so exciting to see everything and everyone come together! We were really fortunate to have such a good location in Newcastle and it was done really well.
On the other hand, Graduate Fashion Week is on a far larger scale – the catwalk and the space is set up a lot differently.  The raised runway, the models, the lighting – they are more professional I guess. But, I don’t know really. I enjoyed both immensely!
?
What’s your fashion history?
My Grandma was a tailoress, she taught me to sew and it went from there. I always wanted to study fashion. I was in primary school drawing cartoons of my friends, in secondary school drawing ball gowns and making business cards for my future self! And from textiles in school, I became fascinated by it all!

?Did you get the chance to work alongside anybody in the industry during your studies?
I’ve been very lucky and done a few placements, and no doubt I’ll be doing a few more! After 1st year, I worked for a month at Philip Treacy. I’ve always had a passion for hats! To be able to meet Philip and work there was amazing! I loved it! Then during our placement year I spent three months working with [friends of Amelia's Magazine] Emilio de la Morena. Then I worked for The Collection, a sampling and textile company, Tatty Devine and Gareth Pugh. Now, I’m really hoping to get involved with another studio before fashion week in September. I’m a bit of a geek for pattern cutting and toiling so I’d like to get stuck in to that!

What inspires you, both for this collection and generally?
Inspiration can come from just about anywhere, but for my own work I am very concept led. There is something very exciting about capturing a meaning, telling a story, and watching it direct ideas. Imagination is a wonderful thing. Generally, it can be when I’m out and about, reading, having a coffee, chatting up with friends… endless possibilities! I love visiting museums and exhibitions… My collection captures the idea of being trapped in a kaleidoscope, which stemmed from considering how we see, travelling light, and light reflecting… I ended up eventually, asking lots of people how they’d feel if they were trapped in a kaleidoscope! I’d initially been focused on building lights into the garments, and it happened for the Newcastle show – sadly there wasn’t time for the London show, but this fusion with technology is something I’d like to further.
?
Your collection mixes masculine tailoring with feminine quirks. Why did you choose the cuts/techniques that you worked with?
Until recently I never really thought about it, but you’re right! It is a bit masculine; you’ve captured it well! I’m not sure really, I think that’s my own personal taste, I’m a bit boyish in my own dress. All the geometric shapes stemmed from cutting, and distorting the body, as though being looked upon inside that kaleidoscopic world. There were lots of triangles too! Kaleidoscopes are triangular mirrors, so the cutting used triangular inserts to push and pull the cloth, and then you put it on a body and you get a whole new dimension!
 
The colour palette is very simple – why didn’t you use colour? (This is a question, not a criticism!)
This was inspired by the concept as well. Since it was based on light, I avoided black – black absorbs light. I wear a lot of black, so I wanted to stay clear of it for this concept. White was too clinical, too bright, so everything was toned down. I wanted it to be soft and unobtrusive and to be honest colour stresses me out a bit! I’m learning to deal with it haha!
 
What did you like about Northumbria and Newcastle? How’s the fashion scene in the Toon?
Well, when I was looking to choose a University, Northumbria was the last place on my mind. I was set on getting far away from home, until I reluctantly came to the open day for Northumbria 5 years ago, and from that day it felt like home. I sat in the old design school and was inspired. I thought, ‘I actually quite like this place… can I stay?!’
I don’t know, is there a scene?!? I haven’t really left the studio much this year to know! Haha!
?
Which fashion designers do you look to for inspiration?
Years ago I started reading about ‘conceptual’ designers, and I have a fascination with Viktor & Rolf. I’d really like to meet them. I think we’d have nice chats! Haha! I’d really like to work for them! I also have admiration for Hussein Chalayan and Rei Kawakubo. Heroes I guess! I’d like to work for both of these as well. I’m a bit of a dreamer!

Did your collection receive positive attention at GFW?
Well I’ve had some lovely blogs and feedback at GFW. On a different occasion I’d been able to present it to a small panel at the BFC and they gave me some really good advice and said some really lovely things.  I was flattered they liked my cutting, and I’ve had feedback from other names from industry with similar comments and interest.

?What do the next few months hold for Stephanie Jayne Price?
At the minute I’m looking into undertaking an MA at the University of Kingston. I met the course leader the other day and she is wonderful! I’m really hoping to continue with the integration of lights and technology fused with this style of cutting and silhouette I’ve developed over the year. Fingers crossed for that! Hopefully I’ll also get involved with some studios to get some more experience – doing some cutting for them, maybe some freelance work. There are a few things to consider really. The world is my oyster!

Stephanie Jayne Price‘s slick, adiposity futuristic collection at Northumbria University‘s Graduate Fashion Week show was a real winner – combining masculine tailoring with feminine quirks. I loved the lines that the creations formed, and the sophistication of each of the pieces – so much so that I couldn’t wait to have a chat with Miss Price and find out what is was all about.

What are the benefits of showing at Graduate Fashion Week?
GFW is an excellent platform for young designers to exhibit work to the industry. It’s a great opportunity to see what the other schools have been up to and ultimately the future of British fashion. For the individual it provides a chance to show your collection to a much wider audience. After spending a year putting your heart and soul into your work, GFW offers a prestigious and professional setting to exhibit your work. It’s a real honour!


Photographs by Matt Bramford

?Northumbria students put on a show at the Baltic in Newcastle before heading for Earl’s Court – how did the two venues compare?
Oh the Baltic is a wonderful space! I have such a soft spot for it! It was our first fashion show, and it was the entire year; only 25 show at GFW, so it was a really nice way to see all the collections together. After seeing bits and bobs around the studio it is so exciting to see everything and everyone come together! We were really fortunate to have such a good location in Newcastle and it was done really well.
On the other hand, Graduate Fashion Week is on a far larger scale – the catwalk and the space is set up a lot differently.  The raised runway, the models, the lighting – they are more professional I guess. But, I don’t know really. I enjoyed both immensely!
?
What’s your fashion history?
My Grandma was a tailoress, she taught me to sew and it went from there. I always wanted to study fashion. I was in primary school drawing cartoons of my friends, in secondary school drawing ball gowns and making business cards for my future self! And from textiles in school, I became fascinated by it all!

?Did you get the chance to work alongside anybody in the industry during your studies?
I’ve been very lucky and done a few placements, and no doubt I’ll be doing a few more! After 1st year, I worked for a month at Philip Treacy. I’ve always had a passion for hats! To be able to meet Philip and work there was amazing! I loved it! Then during our placement year I spent three months working with [friends of Amelia's Magazine] Emilio de la Morena. Then I worked for The Collection, a sampling and textile company, Tatty Devine and Gareth Pugh. Now, I’m really hoping to get involved with another studio before fashion week in September. I’m a bit of a geek for pattern cutting and toiling so I’d like to get stuck in to that!

What inspires you, both for this collection and generally?
Inspiration can come from just about anywhere, but for my own work I am very concept led. There is something very exciting about capturing a meaning, telling a story, and watching it direct ideas. Imagination is a wonderful thing. Generally, it can be when I’m out and about, reading, having a coffee, chatting up with friends… endless possibilities! I love visiting museums and exhibitions… My collection captures the idea of being trapped in a kaleidoscope, which stemmed from considering how we see, travelling light, and light reflecting… I ended up eventually, asking lots of people how they’d feel if they were trapped in a kaleidoscope! I’d initially been focused on building lights into the garments, and it happened for the Newcastle show – sadly there wasn’t time for the London show, but this fusion with technology is something I’d like to further.
?
Your collection mixes masculine tailoring with feminine quirks. Why did you choose the cuts/techniques that you worked with?
Until recently I never really thought about it, but you’re right! It is a bit masculine; you’ve captured it well! I’m not sure really, I think that’s my own personal taste, I’m a bit boyish in my own dress. All the geometric shapes stemmed from cutting, and distorting the body, as though being looked upon inside that kaleidoscopic world. There were lots of triangles too! Kaleidoscopes are triangular mirrors, so the cutting used triangular inserts to push and pull the cloth, and then you put it on a body and you get a whole new dimension!


 
The colour palette is very simple – why didn’t you use colour? (This is a question, not a criticism!)
This was inspired by the concept as well. Since it was based on light, I avoided black – black absorbs light. I wear a lot of black, so I wanted to stay clear of it for this concept. White was too clinical, too bright, so everything was toned down. I wanted it to be soft and unobtrusive and to be honest colour stresses me out a bit! I’m learning to deal with it haha!
 
What did you like about Northumbria and Newcastle? How’s the fashion scene in the Toon?
Well, when I was looking to choose a University, Northumbria was the last place on my mind. I was set on getting far away from home, until I reluctantly came to the open day for Northumbria 5 years ago, and from that day it felt like home. I sat in the old design school and was inspired. I thought, ‘I actually quite like this place… can I stay?!’
I don’t know, is there a scene?!? I haven’t really left the studio much this year to know! Haha!


?
Which fashion designers do you look to for inspiration?
Years ago I started reading about ‘conceptual’ designers, and I have a fascination with Viktor & Rolf. I’d really like to meet them. I think we’d have nice chats! Haha! I’d really like to work for them! I also have admiration for Hussein Chalayan and Rei Kawakubo. Heroes I guess! I’d like to work for both of these as well. I’m a bit of a dreamer!

Did your collection receive positive attention at GFW?
Well I’ve had some lovely blogs and feedback at GFW. On a different occasion I’d been able to present it to a small panel at the BFC and they gave me some really good advice and said some really lovely things.  I was flattered they liked my cutting, and I’ve had feedback from other names from industry with similar comments and interest.

?What do the next few months hold for Stephanie Jayne Price?
At the minute I’m looking into undertaking an MA at the University of Kingston. I met the course leader the other day and she is wonderful! I’m really hoping to continue with the integration of lights and technology fused with this style of cutting and silhouette I’ve developed over the year. Fingers crossed for that! Hopefully I’ll also get involved with some studios to get some more experience – doing some cutting for them, maybe some freelance work. There are a few things to consider really. The world is my oyster!

Stephanie Jayne Price‘s slick, buy futuristic collection at Northumbria University‘s Graduate Fashion Week show was a real winner – combining masculine tailoring with feminine quirks. I loved the lines that the creations formed, and the sophistication of each of the pieces – so much so that I couldn’t wait to have a chat with Miss Price and find out what is was all about.

What are the benefits of showing at Graduate Fashion Week?
GFW is an excellent platform for young designers to exhibit work to the industry. It’s a great opportunity to see what the other schools have been up to and ultimately the future of British fashion. For the individual it provides a chance to show your collection to a much wider audience. After spending a year putting your heart and soul into your work, GFW offers a prestigious and professional setting to exhibit your work. It’s a real honour!


Photographs by Matt Bramford

?Northumbria students put on a show at the Baltic in Newcastle before heading for Earl’s Court – how did the two venues compare?
Oh the Baltic is a wonderful space! I have such a soft spot for it! It was our first fashion show, and it was the entire year; only 25 show at GFW, so it was a really nice way to see all the collections together. After seeing bits and bobs around the studio it is so exciting to see everything and everyone come together! We were really fortunate to have such a good location in Newcastle and it was done really well.
On the other hand, Graduate Fashion Week is on a far larger scale – the catwalk and the space is set up a lot differently.  The raised runway, the models, the lighting – they are more professional I guess. But, I don’t know really. I enjoyed both immensely!
?
What’s your fashion history?
My Grandma was a tailoress, she taught me to sew and it went from there. I always wanted to study fashion. I was in primary school drawing cartoons of my friends, in secondary school drawing ball gowns and making business cards for my future self! And from textiles in school, I became fascinated by it all!

?Did you get the chance to work alongside anybody in the industry during your studies?
I’ve been very lucky and done a few placements, and no doubt I’ll be doing a few more! After 1st year, I worked for a month at Philip Treacy. I’ve always had a passion for hats! To be able to meet Philip and work there was amazing! I loved it! Then during our placement year I spent three months working with [friends of Amelia's Magazine] Emilio de la Morena. Then I worked for The Collection, a sampling and textile company, Tatty Devine and Gareth Pugh. Now, I’m really hoping to get involved with another studio before fashion week in September. I’m a bit of a geek for pattern cutting and toiling so I’d like to get stuck in to that!

What inspires you, both for this collection and generally?
Inspiration can come from just about anywhere, but for my own work I am very concept led. There is something very exciting about capturing a meaning, telling a story, and watching it direct ideas. Imagination is a wonderful thing. Generally, it can be when I’m out and about, reading, having a coffee, chatting up with friends… endless possibilities! I love visiting museums and exhibitions… My collection captures the idea of being trapped in a kaleidoscope, which stemmed from considering how we see, travelling light, and light reflecting… I ended up eventually, asking lots of people how they’d feel if they were trapped in a kaleidoscope! I’d initially been focused on building lights into the garments, and it happened for the Newcastle show – sadly there wasn’t time for the London show, but this fusion with technology is something I’d like to further.
?
Your collection mixes masculine tailoring with feminine quirks. Why did you choose the cuts/techniques that you worked with?
Until recently I never really thought about it, but you’re right! It is a bit masculine; you’ve captured it well! I’m not sure really, I think that’s my own personal taste, I’m a bit boyish in my own dress. All the geometric shapes stemmed from cutting, and distorting the body, as though being looked upon inside that kaleidoscopic world. There were lots of triangles too! Kaleidoscopes are triangular mirrors, so the cutting used triangular inserts to push and pull the cloth, and then you put it on a body and you get a whole new dimension!


 
The colour palette is very simple – why didn’t you use colour? (This is a question, not a criticism!)
This was inspired by the concept as well. Since it was based on light, I avoided black – black absorbs light. I wear a lot of black, so I wanted to stay clear of it for this concept. White was too clinical, too bright, so everything was toned down. I wanted it to be soft and unobtrusive and to be honest colour stresses me out a bit! I’m learning to deal with it haha!
 
What did you like about Northumbria and Newcastle? How’s the fashion scene in the Toon?
Well, when I was looking to choose a University, Northumbria was the last place on my mind. I was set on getting far away from home, until I reluctantly came to the open day for Northumbria 5 years ago, and from that day it felt like home. I sat in the old design school and was inspired. I thought, ‘I actually quite like this place… can I stay?!’
I don’t know, is there a scene?!? I haven’t really left the studio much this year to know! Haha!


?
Which fashion designers do you look to for inspiration?
Years ago I started reading about ‘conceptual’ designers, and I have a fascination with Viktor & Rolf. I’d really like to meet them. I think we’d have nice chats! Haha! I’d really like to work for them! I also have admiration for Hussein Chalayan and Rei Kawakubo. Heroes I guess! I’d like to work for both of these as well. I’m a bit of a dreamer!

Did your collection receive positive attention at GFW?
Well I’ve had some lovely blogs and feedback at GFW. On a different occasion I’d been able to present it to a small panel at the BFC and they gave me some really good advice and said some really lovely things.  I was flattered they liked my cutting, and I’ve had feedback from other names from industry with similar comments and interest.

?What do the next few months hold for Stephanie Jayne Price?
At the minute I’m looking into undertaking an MA at the University of Kingston. I met the course leader the other day and she is wonderful! I’m really hoping to continue with the integration of lights and technology fused with this style of cutting and silhouette I’ve developed over the year. Fingers crossed for that! Hopefully I’ll also get involved with some studios to get some more experience – doing some cutting for them, maybe some freelance work. There are a few things to consider really. The world is my oyster!

Illustrator Johan Björkegren talks to Amelia’s Magazine about his relationship to Robert Crumb and the organic nature of drawing landscapes. As Johan’s production is nearly entirely composed of detailed black and white charcoaled drawings, thumb this appeared to be the logical place to start our conversation…

Do you mainly draw with a black and white colour scheme?

Yes I almost always only work in black and white. The use of lines and textures to describe the form and expressions are the things I am interested in and not so much the colours. A few months ago I bought some oilcolors and started to paint, cheap which I have not done in years. I think working with colours is really hard.

What do you find harder about working with colours than in black and white?

I think Colours are harder becouse its another choice to make. Its a whole other thing to consider when describing form, side effects expression or a texture with lines. And I really have not found the right material that I like. I have worked with colours, but I dont think I have really found the right way to use them yet.

How did the series of portraitse develop?

As I worked with people and their expressions in some of my landscape drawings, I began to find it interesting to focus only on their faces.

Are these characters based on people from life?

Both yes and no. The faces are not portraits of a real life person, but they are inspired by people I know or have seen. I like how you fantasise about pictures of people you never have or will meet. You make their personality up yourself. I make them and their personalities out while i work. I am also fascinated by hair and and the structure of it and how to draw it. I also like the way it expresses ones idea of your personality.

What is it that interests you about populated and unpopulated landscapes?

Faces and landscapes are the same I think. Even when I draw pictures from my mind, its something all can relate to. In the populated landscapes I work with the people in the drawings and their relation to the landscape. In the unpopulated it is more of yourself going into the landscape and another dimension. Now I work more with the unfinished picture as a way to also step into the picture and make the drawing process more alive in the picture.

Which artists or illustrators inspire you?

Many people say that my work reminds about Robert Crumb, and thats right. Im a big fan of him and his technique. I also like Henry Darger and Edward Kienholz. I also get a lot of inpiration from film makers such as Werner Herzog. People who live tough for their works and for whom its a question about life and death.

Could you talk a little bit about Robert Crumb’s Techniques and your own?

Yes, its hard to talk about your idols, I think you can see that I am influenced by the underground comics of the 60s and 70s. Robert is one of the most skilled artists I think. I’m more in to his style than the stories. I like the way he describes forms and the way he works with faces and expressions. It was when I saw the movie “Crumb” that I really got to like his work. I think that my own technique is most like his in the way to describe forms and that its all a little ugly.

What first interested you about working with charcoal? How did you come to use this material?

When I started as a illustrator, I worked only with with ink, but I grew tired of it quite fast, I think that you can get much more expression with charcoal, ink is too sharp I think, charcoal makes a much more living drawing. However I still use ink for some things I draw, typography and in my smaller sketchy works, but not for the bigger drawings.

You have had numerous commissions do you see yourself solely as an illustrator who experiments with Graphic Design?

I see myself as an artist that does comissions, rather than an illustrator sometimes doing free work. I like working with commissions becouse it is a whole other thing than free work. The free work is more meditative – you dont have to think about an assignment. Whereas with commissions you have to relate to the project and the “uppdragsgivare” which I think is fun and challenging, you have to relate to something else than yourself.

I have a bachelors degree in Graphic design from Beckmans college of design, and I’m really interested in graphic design and typography. I like commissions where I can work with both.

Do the landscapes come from your imagination or do you use photographs of places you have or have not travelled to?

I make them out as I draw. Landscapes are so organic, you can build up the structures as you draw out of your idea. I never use photos for the landscapes, some become inspired from memories of pictures I have seen and memories from my travels.

What is your process for deciding what type of landscape to draw?

If I get an idea that I think works, I start to draw, and if it is a good idea, you can get it down on paper quite fast. Otherwise I tear the paper to pieces and start all over again.

Is everything hand-drawn or do you occasionally use the computer?

Most is hand drawn, in my free works I never edit the pictures. In the illustrations I use the computer to make a good and working composition, sometimes but not often I use it for typography and graphic elements.

What interests you about typography?

Communication and how the letterforms can change the meaning of words. With illustrated text it is more abstract than my other drawings, its interesting to work with forms. I like the decorative side and the forms of more functional typefaces. The function and aesthetics of the text body itself is also interesting.

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One Response to “Artist Interview with Johan Björkegren”

  1. Faye West says:

    always a pleasure to be introduced to some one so original and instantly awe inspiring. love.

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