Tonight, Danish-born illustrator Rose Johansen is opening the doors to her debut solo-exhibition at 558 Gallery in NYC’s Chelsea district. Covered in tattoos designed by herself, the blonde let’s her mind run wild when she pens her anatomically incorrect illustrations. At first, the pieces come across as brutal and gory but at a closer look the liberated spirit of the artist is perfectly captured in the precise and elegant ink strokes that grace the paper.
We met up with Johansen to discuss the thoughts and story behind her “ink.”
Lars Byrresen Petersen: You’re premiering your first solo exhibition, how does it feel?
Rose Johansen: It feels extremely nerve recking. I’m so happy that I get to show my stuff where I don’t have to compromise, but this is exactly what scares me at the same time. I’m showcasing a side of myself which is extremely private and intimate. But all in all, I’m just so grateful that I get a chance to exhibit my work.
LBP: To most it would seem you have a very dark mind, but there’s something so liberated and free about your works. Where does your inspiration come from?
RJ: My mom is a doctor, and since I was little I went with her to work. She could never get a nanny, so she took me to the morgue and to oversee operations. I have very vivid memories of playing around in the underground tunnels of the university hospital of Copenhagen. Every time I go back, I still visit my other at the hospital. I love the stories, the people and even the smell of hospitals.
LBP: When and why did you start drawing?
RJ: I started drawing from a very young age. My father would put objects in front of me that we replicated together. He’s an amazing artist himself, so I can thank him for my skills.
LBP: How does it make you feel?
RJ: I have a very hectic life with very long work hours, so it’s extremely liberating to just sit down and get absorbed into your own world. I really don’t think of everything, I tried to block everything out and just slowly slip into the void.
LBP: On average, how long do you spend on a piece?
RJ: I spent waaay too long. I’m a perfectionist. About 30-40h per drawing.
LBP: What’s the best working environment for you?
RJ: I havn’t had a desk for over 2 years, so I usually draw sitting in my bed. I love natural sunlight, but because of my work, I usually draw at night.
LBP: What’s your favorite piece?
RJ: I have a very special connection to some of them, but actually I feel especially proud of my last drawing. I love to mix a surrealistic element into my anatomy fantasy – Hopefully I will incorporate this theme more into my future works.
LBP: Do you have a favorite artist?
RJ: There are of course many talented artist, who I look up too – but some of my all time favorites are BAUHAUS artist John Heartfield, John O’Rielly with his beautiful provocative collages and Robert Heinecken for turning commercial waste into beautiful 3D puzzels.
LBP: Tell us about your exhibition; how is it built? Is there a theme?
RJ: The theme of my exhibit opening tomorrow, is the beautiful inaccuracy, when fantasy interprets the harsh reality of human anatomy. Hopefully my work will do these thoughts justice.
LBP: What will you do after the opening tomorrow?
RJ: Tomorrow night, when everyone’s left, I can hopefully take a minute, where I turn off the lights and enjoy the silence.
Rose Johansen’s debut exhibition premieres tonight at 558 Gallery, W 21st St, New York City.