“Auction & Exhibition” ~Fall Edition/2011~ Page -2-


Johanna Sonninen is a Helsinki, Finland artist that is proficient in drawing, metalwork and jewelery. She has traveled extensively & is multi-lingual. Her focus is her unique style of drawing. I became aware of her work through Twitter and can attest that Johanna is a cutting edge artisan whose work defies boundaries. It is my pleasure to introduce her to an American audience here in
“Auction & Exhibition”.

Johanna Sonninen

A&E: Although you are a university graduate, you still consider yourself ‘self taught’. Why is that so?

JS: Actually I have studied art in school only for 3yrs. A strong need to be a craftsman comes to me as a blood legacy and I have drawn as long as I can remember. For me, it has never been unclear what I want to do for a living or with my life. Creating has always been a part my life. When I say self taught I also mean that my learning process will never end, I have so much to learn and I’m very exited about it !

A&E: I’ve been repetitively consumed with your drawings for some months now, but in all fairness you also do metalwork and jewelry. How do you approach editing your time between mediums-and is it fair to say that you are most pre-occupied with your drawings?

JS: Yes right now I’m most preoccupied by my drawings. At the moment I don’t own a suitable work space where I could work with metal, so that side is not so busy as I would like it to be.

A&E: When I first saw your work I was initially most taken by your drawings of Levi’s from your series “The Philosophy of Denim Jeans”. Considering how much you love the sensory quality of jeans, what technical constructs (if any) help you facilitate the clean, sparse, realism you achieve?

4th_Philosophy of Denim Jeans

4th_Philosophy of Denim Jeans

JS: I drew that series by using models who posed for me in those postures. I searched with lights for the right mood and then I drew what I saw.

A&E: It’s quite common for artists to explore a multitude of materials, substances & papers..and usually adopt recognizable identities and preferences around them. Artists make drawings from interesting paper choices and mediums..so when I heard you were making drawings by utilizing “User manual ink” on paper I thought that was pretty unique. Tell us about it..

JS: Actually “User manual” is just one drawing for now. Making drawings by utilizing user manual ink on paper, now that is a good idea!

A&E: I read that you were on exhibition at Parallax AF International London from 10/21-10/23. What kind of venue is that designed to be, and what works did you show there?

JS: Parallax AF in London was an art fair. I showed 3 works there from ” The Soliloquy series “..Welcome, The green eyed man, and
Thank you, do come again!.

A&E: In reading your website  I was thoroughly intrigued with your comments about masochism, and the beautiful, mature, powerful woman that seemed to tell you “You’re a masochist if you care about me?”.  You went on to discuss how  pain was necessary for growth-And that, seemingly, one can even need a number of partners to know who is best suited. I felt there was a lot of emotional truth in that..which leads me to ask if you think masochism, or pain and pleasure, is more due to conscious willingness, or because of external subjection?

JS: ” Masochism in me which I passionately love ” is a series of very important work to me. Through it I examine all those experiences I have had this far concerning relationships and feelings. When I tell about that person and about her words “You’re a masochist if you care about me?” I’m revealing my one real life situation when I realized my own growth from sentimental to a realist. I personally believe that in emotional matters we often make subconscious choices which we are unable to influence in a consciousness level before we are aware of this.

A&E: As you know, I was a swordsman at one time and we both have practiced ‘the art’. But once I learned that you work in metals, and gazed on the silver and black Flintlock pistol you made-I was totally impressed. Your workmanship is intensely ornate and labored. The quality reminded me of the old film where Alan Ladd plays Jim Bowie, who found a meteorite and had a blacksmith forge it into the mythic Bowie Knife..which he used to defeat a guy that had a sword. What inspired you to make such a pistol-and what were the demands and technical complications?

Gun (Flintlock), metal-work, by Johanna Sonninen

Gun (Flintlock), metal-work, by Johanna Sonninen

JS: It is my thesis which through I graduated from that 3yrs. Art and Crafts school. As a history / war history addict the idea came to me from there and in Flintlock pistol I was able to push my own craftsmanship to the extreme. Making that thesis there were very strict rules of how it must be done and yes I did choose a suicide project because of the fact that you were not allowed to ask any guidance from anyone. So I did face technical complications every day and I even had moments when I didn’t have a clue how to proceed next.

A&E: Guns, artillery and military zones are repeating imagery on your site. But  your color drawing, “Trust_me_nro.51266” leaves no doubt that you are an advanced visionary creative. The drawing is a stunning abstract image where a very groomed young man has what seems to be a 38 revolver as a kind of appendage. The beauty of the abstraction is heightened by how you formed pools of reflections as lines. Were you in a day dream when you conceived  “Trust_me_nro.51266” ?

Trust_me_nro.51266, drawing, Johanna Sonninen

Trust_me_nro.51266, drawing, Johanna Sonninen

JS: That work is part of the series ” Masochism in me which I passionately love ” and the idea just came to mind while doing the other drawings.

A&E: You seem to have a constant paper size of 11 3/4 x 16 1/2″. In the Winter edition of Auction & Exhibition I interviewed another European drawing artist from Stockholm and she also always seems to work small as well. Is that a trend among illustration artists across Europe-or something derived from art school regimens there?

JS: I have used that size because of habit or when a client has requested it.

A&E: When looking at your drawing of cellist Carol Thorns, one could conclude it is simultaneously “both” grayscale & a color image at the same time. Do you enjoy one more than the other when it comes to drawing in black & white – or color?

Carol Thorns, drawing, Johanna Sonninen

Carol Thorns, drawing, Johanna Sonninen

JS: No I enjoy both equally. Colours or not it is purely dictated by the subject and custom work for the client.

A&E: You mentioned that your black & white drawing “Obdach” represents your newest direction. That particular image is a really rich, fluid metropolis. It reminds me of the black scratch blocks of masonite that Eyvind Earle (Sleeping Beauty/Walt Disney) would cut white negative space into to create a picture. Tell us about your new direction..

Obdach, drawing, Johanna Sonninen

Obdach, drawing, Johanna Sonninen

JS: “Obdach” represents my new direction as a subject. I want to go deeper and express myself to the fullest, without any kind of embellishment.


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