Johan Deckmann: You May Not Want To Hear This 16 October–17 November 2021 MAKI 1-33-10 Higashi-Shinagawa Shinagawa-ku Tokyo, 140-0002 Japan
MAKI Gallery is pleased to present You May Not Want To Hear This, Copenhagen-based artist Johan Deckmann’s first solo exhibition in Japan. Featured at our Tennoz I space will be an array of new paintings and mixed media sculptures as well as the artist’s celebrated book pieces, in which he takes found books and paints witty titles or astute remarks in English that cleverly abridge the human experience.
As both an artist and practicing psychotherapist, Deckmann directly draws from his psychological background in his work. The artist conjures up satirical yet playful titles—inspired by self-help books—that pointedly reference universal insecurities, fears, and frustrations. Quips such as ‘How to make it through another pointless day’ or ‘How to believe that anything is possible only to realize that it really isn’t’ settle on faded book covers, light-heartedly presenting sentiments often felt but not always expressed. Although the titles suggest further instructions lie inside, one can only ruminate what the pages may contain as the books are glued shut.
The artist paints similarly incisive expressions onto other found objects, while simultaneously utilizing their respective forms to emphasize meaning. In Emotional Baggage, he takes a small vintage luggage carrier with the word ‘Baggage’ painted on front and stacks it atop a larger suitcase labeled ‘Emotional baggage’. Playing with the objects’ relative sizes, Deckmann materializes the sheer load of one’s mental burden into a physical form. Another work, Pain/Gain, reveals a thick, hefty book with ‘Pain’ written on the cover juxtaposed with a pathetically flimsy one titled ‘Gain’. With direct, to-the-point execution, Deckmann shrewdly pinpoints the irony and complexity of our daily lives, including the struggles and pressures we constantly endure.
Recently, the artist has begun painting his insightful one-liners on canvas. Phrases such as ‘I want to feel the way I felt before I knew what I know now’ or ‘How to build a wall so high that nobody will ever get to know you’ are boldly inscribed and either enclosed in a simple border or set against a one-color background. The paintings’ candid and straightforward veneer complements the sincerity of the words they bear. As the exhibition title suggests, Deckmann’s work urges the viewer to brave truths that may be difficult to face but are nonetheless crucial to confront.
Squarely grasping the profound, delicate, and oftentimes challenging human condition, Deckmann’s works offer raw truths under the veil of humor and whimsy. The artist’s practice delves into all facets of life—the beauty and ugliness, the anxieties and joys, the certainties and uncertainties—and pushes viewers towards critical introspection. Please take this opportunity to visit Johan Deckmann’s first solo presentation at MAKI Gallery and unpack the truths that lie behind each work.