Johanna Karlsson in her studio

photography Thomas Karlsson

Johanna Karlsson : “My Art Comes From a Personal Need to Express Myself”

Written by Natalia Muntean

To kick off Stockholm Art Week, we have asked a number of interesting people from the city’s art scene questions to explore their relationship to art and the city.

Stockholm-based artist, Johanna Karlsson, creates dioramas depicting landscapes in a variety of different materials, including copper wire, silver wire, paper, textiles, pigment and plaster. She chooses to focus on the sculpture rather than the colours in her works, letting the materials speak for themselves. Karlsson creates precise depictions of nature, integrating cultural elements to form a landscape where personal interpretation fuses with natural science. Her works can be found in collections such as he Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sundsvall Museum in Sweden, and the Olbricht Collection in Germany. 

What is the story behind your exhibition during Stockholm Art Week? 
I have wanted to create reliefs for a long time. When I've made images, I've often wanted to add some other materials like paper pulp or sand. I enjoy it when the materials create shadows and texture. For these reliefs, I also used soldered details of copper wire and let them extend further from the surface. It’s a middle ground between the sculptures and images I've created before.

What inspired you to become an artist, and how has your artistic journey evolved? 
I've always made things with my hands; drawn and built with various materials. I still use many of the same materials as when I was young, such as paper, glue, threads and steel wire.

What is your creative process like, and how do you approach developing new ideas and concepts for your work?
I think it's a process that I just have to follow, even if it's with resistance and effort. It feels very much like one thing leads to another, that what I'm doing now builds on what I did before. It doesn't always get better, but each step might still have a purpose and be important in some way.

What role do you think art plays in society, and how do you see your work contributing to or challenging societal norms?
I’m certain that art is an essential part of society, but it is nothing that affects my working process. I don't think my art has a specific agenda or purpose. It is rather something that comes from a personal need to express myself. This does not mean that I am not interested in how the audience perceives and interprets what I do.

Are there any particular themes or subjects that consistently appear in your work, and if so, what draws you to them?
It's almost always nature that inspires me. Both the grand and the small, with all the details. It's difficult to know why one gets drawn to certain motifs, but I think it's some kind of atmosphere or a memory.

Can you share a favourite spot in Stockholm where you go to find inspiration or recharge creatively? 
Sometimes, when it's very difficult to get started working in the studio, I go to a library and sit and flip through books. It can be art books, biographies, poetry, or anything that gives new impressions. I also visit galleries and museums.

Can you share a story about a specific neighbourhood in Stockholm that holds personal significance to you as an artist?
I wander around where I live, formerly in Södermalm and now in Hökarängen and around Gullmarsplan by our allotment garden. I often look at slightly dull, unkempt places but where I still see something I find beautiful. In recent years, Högdalstoppen has been a favourite.

Is there a Swedish artist who you find inspirational?
There are many Swedish artists that inspire me now, but perhaps the most important was my grandfather, Algot. He had a furniture workshop, but in his later years, he began to draw. In the evenings, he sat in the workshop's lunchroom and made meticulous pencil drawings. I enjoyed visiting him there and seeing how the drawing grew day by day.

What is your favourite bar or restaurant in Stockholm?
I don't go out very often, but I enjoy having coffee at BAK in Hökarängen.

Scene XXXVII, 2022
Plaster, paper, pigment, metal wire, oak and artglass
50 x 62 x 30 cm

photography Nora Bencivenni, Galleri Magnus Karlsson

Note I, 2022
Relief, paper, pigment and metal wire on panel
27x22x1.5 cm
photography Nora Bencivenni, Gallery Magnus Karlsson