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Joakim Ojanen

Joakim Ojanen’s artwork embodies the inner child within all of us. He creates a deeply personal universe full of unique characters that automatically win the heart of the viewer with their sincerity. His paintings and ceramic sculptures capture genuine moments of human expression. When they are grouped together they create delicate and emotionally charged narratives. While maintaining a sense of humor they manage to hit an intense spot in the human psyche, perhaps a subconscious adolescent need none of us ever get over; the desire to belong. Piece by piece each of Ojanen’s works tells a story about finding one’s way in the world and reminds us it’s okay to be ourselves.

Ojanen’s distinct and organic path as an artist begins in Västerås, Sweden. He entered into the arts through graffiti. For him, it was a creative outlet, which intrigued his interests in other types of art mediums. He learned how to use animation programs and began to make short movies and music videos. He also pursued drawing, publishing fanzines and organizing art shows.

These endeavors led to his enrollment in the Illustration and Graphic Design program at Konstfack, University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. After a couple of years, he decided illustration wasn’t for him. Seeking a hobby, Ojanen signed up for a ceramics open studio session outside of school. It was during these sessions that he started to make sculptures from his drawings.

Ojanen’s passion for independent studies has fostered an extensive understanding of his materials. In fact, it is his relationship with paint and clay that guide him in each of his creations. He embarks on making his portrait paintings by first drawing a small sketch. Bringing it to the canvas, he aims to make his idea come alive. There is a negotiation that happens between the paint and his brush strokes. The resolution determines when each painting is complete. To start his sculptures Ojanen goes straight to the clay. Once the process is initiated he then allows it to take the lead until a finished piece emerges.

His ability is demonstrated well in Sitting Wondering a sculpture that depicts a boy hugging his knees while grasping a pen and notebook. The use of texture and precise gesture reveals a vulnerability that resonates long after viewing it. And in turn, the audience is invited to explore a deeper level of intuition.

One notices Ojanen’s iconography is reminiscent of a comic book language. In pictorial terms, his artwork hints at the works of Philip Guston, Keith Haring and at times the Surrealist paintings of Salvador Dali. However Ojanen states, ‘It’s dangerous to look at one artist too much.’ Instead, a framework of emotions structures Ojanen’s introverted creative process. ‘I work a lot with feelings. I would say that is the main core of my work. It’s about finding the right posture, the right eyes, smile and so on, (in order) to capture something I couldn’t make up in my mind. It’s about trying until I get something that feels right.’

Ojanen cites music as his biggest source of inspiration to his artwork – and lists his favorites as Drake, Young Thug, and Wu-Tang Clan, just to mention a few. Listening to rap while working in his studio is an integral part of his process. As he interacts and alters his materials he harnesses the raw energy of it and reflects the autobiographical lyrics in his use of narrative.

A genuine talent, it is worth spending time navigating through his profoundly sensitive universe of work. Ojanen exhibits his art widely in Sweden and is represented by the Richard Heller Gallery in Los Angeles.

New work by Ojanen will be exhibited at Richard Heller Gallery's booth, D03, at Art Brussels April 25-28, 2019.

- Laura Mylott Manning is a New York based artist and writer. She holds a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and is a contributor to the WCPUN journal Centerpoint Now.

Photo Credit: Christopher Hunt

Born 1985 in Västerås. Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden

2012 - 2014
MFA, Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design

2009 - 2012
BA, Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design

Solo & Two-Person Exhibitions

A Show for the Lonely Distant Baby Souls, Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Drawing Attention, Larsen Warner, Stockholm, Sweden
A Day in the Woods, AISHONANZUKA, Hong Kong

Second meeting is always a bit tricky, last time was so spontaneous and easy, now there's all these expectations and I'm not so good with social responsibility, Ruttkowski;68, Paris, FR
Snake Pit, The Hole, New York, NY

Year of the Dog, Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Where Do We Go From Here?, Christian Larsen Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden

Anthropocene, Ruttkowski;68, Cologne, Germany
Interrupted Boredom, Lefevbre & Fils, Paris, France
Joakim Ojanen & Ryan Travis Christian, The Hole, New York, NY
Oskar Nilsson & Joakim Ojanen, Gallery Steinsland Berliner, Stockholm, Sweden

What A Time To Be Alive :(, Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Ebelingmuseet, Torshälla Eskilstuna, Sweden
Konsthallen Passagen (Joakim Ojanen & Jeff Olsson), Linköping, Sweden

The Bries Space, Antwerp, Belgium
Market Art Fair, Galleri Thomassen, Stockholm, Sweden

Självbild, Galleri Thomassen, Göteborg, Sweden
This Is The Shit That I Live 4, KAZ Galleri, Västerås, Sweden

Dirty Hands, Filthy Feets - Superclub Gallery, Edinburgh, UK
Projektionen av mig på dig (Joakim Ojanen & Hanna Andersson) Grafikens Hus, Mariefred, Sweden

Röknäsor, Elefanter & Regnbågar (Joakim Ojanen & Hanna Andersson) NAU Gallery, Stockholm

Konstfack Student gallery Vernissage, Stockholm, Sweden

The creamy two's (Joakim Ojanen & Hanna Andersson) Gallery Le Petit Mignon, Berlin, Germany
Phaces, Nya Skolan, Göteborg, Sweden

Street Smart, Show Konstfack, Stockholm, Sweden

The creamy two’s (Joakim Ojanen & Hanna Andersson) Gallery Hangups, Stockholm, Sweden

Selected Group Exhibitions

Extra Time, Plus One Art, Antwerp, BE
Black & White vs. Color, Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Mixed Pickles 7, Ruttkowsi;68, Cologne, DE

Shades of Existence, Tecknings Museet, Hästtorget, Sweden
Art Brussels, Richard Heller Gallery, Brussels, BE
Art Los Angeles Contemporary (ALAC), Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

UNTITLED, ART, Richard Heller Gallery, Miami, FL
EXPO Chicago, Richard Heller Gallery, Chicago, IL
Dallas Art Fair, Richard Heller Gallery, Dallas, TX

Beheaded, Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
EXPO Chicago, Richard Heller Gallery, Chicago, IL
Dallas Art Fair, Richard Heller Gallery, Dallas, TX

UNTITLED, ART, Richard Heller Gallery, Miami, FL
EXPO Chicago, Richard Heller Gallery, Chicago, IL
Seattle Art Fair, Richard Heller Gallery, Seattle, WA
The Garden Party (Group show) Thielska Galleriet, Stockholm, Sweden
KARNEVAL (Group show) Gustavsbergs Konsthall, Gustavsberg, Sweden
Swedish Art: Now! Sven Harrys Konstmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden
Young Frankensteins Lesley Heller Workspace, New York, NY

2015 - 2016

BEHOLD! THE BLOB, Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Samlat 2010-2015, Västerås Konstmuseum, Västerås, Sweden
Påsksalong, Galleri Thomassen, Gothenburg, Sweden

2014 - 2015
Winter Show 2014, Charlotte Fogh Gallery, Aarhus, Denmark

Moving, Watdafac Gallery, New York, NY
Påsksalongen, Galleri Thomassen, Gothenburg, Sweden
Keramik, NAU Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden
WHAT A GAS! AT THE ZOO 3:E Våningen, Gothenburg, Sweden

Magnus Magnum - Studio Belleflamme, Liège, Belgium
Retrospective 2012 Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium
Opposites Attract Chicago Urban Art Society, Chicago, IL

2012 - 2013
Bang On The Beet - Swedish Special Watdafac Gallery, Madrid, Spain

Blaque Lyte Richmo - ADA Gallery, Richmond, VA
Point of no return Konstfack Degree Exhibition, Stockholm, Sweden

2011 - 2012
Blaque Lyte - Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL

Selected Bibliography
Selected Press

Hypebeast Magazine, Joakim Ojanen Welcomes You to His Fever Dream, April 21.
Hypebeast, Joakim Ojanen Crafts Quirky Ceramic Sculptures & Paintings for First Asia Show, Feb 13.

Artblog, Joakim Ojanen’s anxiety-ridden characters, sexualized undertones, at The Hole NYC, March 14.

Los Angeles Times, David Pagel, Review: With 'Year of the Dog,' artist Joakim Ojanen crafts imaginary creatures full of real drama, July 25.
ARTANDCAKE, Genie Davis, Review: Barking Up the Right Tree: Joakim Ojanen – Year of the Dog, July 25.
Art Now LA, Jody Zellen, Review: Joakim Ojanen: Year of the Dog, High Art That Makes You Smile, July 6.
Juxtapoz Magazine, Joakim Ojanen: Year of the Dog, Joakim Ojanen Explores the Child in All of Us in New Show @ Richard Heller Gallery, June 25.
Paper Magazine, Justin Moran, The Swedish Artist Making Creepy, Comedic Sculptures, March 30.

Juxtapoz Magazine, Sasha Bogojev, Merry Melancholy, Comedic Sculptures.
Ravelin, Matilda Dahlgren, Joakim Ojanen at The Journal Gallery's Tennis Elbow.
Art Maze Mag, Christina Nafziger, Strange Yet Relatable and Lovable Ceramic Characters by Joakim Ojanen.
Hi Fructose, Andy Smith, Joakim Ojanen's Playful, Ageless Characters, December 22.
Wall Street International Magazine, Joakim Ojanen, December 9.
Hyperallergic, Edward M. Gómez, Dallas Art Fair Review: At the 2017 Dallas Art Fair, Big Ambitions and the Big Mo, April 8.
It's Nice That, Lucy Bourton, The expressive paintings and sculptures of Joakim Ojanen, January 10.
The Hundreds, Zio, The Secret Life of Joakim Ojanen's Art, January 6.

Cool Hunting, Karen Day, Miami Art Week 2016: Creature Keepers - Animated sculptures that kept us on our toes at the fairs this year, December 9.
Los Angeles Times, David Pagel, Joakim Ojanen: Innocence and melancholy, sculpted into old souls and teary dogs, July 5.
Elephant, Emily Steer, 5 Questions with Joakim Ojanen, July.
Artillery Magazine, Jody Zellen, Joakim Ojanen, July 20.
Artillery Magazine, Eve Wood, Pick of the Week, July 7.

Konstnärsnämnden, Internationellt kulturutbyte och resebidrag

Konstnärsnämnden – Working grant – the Swedish Arts Grants Committee
Stockholm Stad Kulturstipendium, Bildkonst
Konstakademien, E. Sääfs stipendium
Konstnärsnämnden, Internationellt kulturutbyte och resebidrag

Västerås Stad Kulturstipendium

Gefeldts & Reeves Stiftelse

Colección Solo, Madrid, Spain
Statens Konstråd (Public Art Agency Sweden)
Västerås Art Museum, Sweden
Åberg Museum, Bålsta, Sweden
Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium
The City of Gothenburg, Sweden
The City of Linköping, Sweden
The City of Eskilstuna, Sweden
The City of Östersund, Sweden
The City of Katrineholm, Sweden
County Council of Gävleborg, Sweden
Värmdö municipality
The Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago, US


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