Johan Wahlstrom

Artist Q&A with Johan Wahlstrom

Stockholm-born Johan Wahlstrom is an artist who is making a conscious effort to describe the social and political landscape of our contemporary world. His ironic series Social Life gives a perfect sense both from a conceptual as a formal point of view of this estrangement. He is a magnificent observer of our social lives.

“Turmoil”, urethane and color pigments on canvas, 62 x 54 in | 157 x 137 cm, 2020

Who is your favorite artist of all time?

Leon Golub

How did you become a professional artist?

I am the 5th generation of artists on my mother’s side and you could say it was in my blood from an early age. I have always loved expressing myself through the arts. It started with painting, went into Rock ‘n’ Roll, and then back to painting.

What are the influences and inspirations in your work?

Today’s society, news, my travels, and people that I meet. I see myself as a journalist portraying what I see and hear through my paintings.

Johan Wahlstrom, self-portrait.

When is a piece finished for you?

That is always a difficult question that I constantly battle with. Normally it is finished when I feel that the painting is talking to me and makes me feel.

What’s different about your current body of work?

Most likely many of my distorted face paintings are less obvious, less in your face, thanks to adding more abstraction. 

Tell us about a few of your career highlights or moments that have greatly affected your career?

Moving to New York five years ago certainly affected my career, as did my two man show “From 1960’s Celebrities To Today’s Social Media, From Warhol To Wahlstrom” with Andy Warhol in 2018.  I have also been part of group shows in Europe with Erwin Olaf, Robert Mapplethorp, Gerard Richter, Jake and DInos Chapman, David Salle, Picasso, Dali, Miguel Barcelo, Olafur Eliasson, Nicola Verlato, and Joseph Beuys.

“Election Day”, urethane and color pigments on canvas, 114 x 66 in | 290 x 168 cm, 2020

What’s coming up for you?

Currently I am part of an online museum show at CAFA in Beijing, China. If Covid regulations allows, the show will become a physical show in the late part of spring 2021.

 What advice would you give to an artist just starting out today?

Paint who you are, paint your story, be true to yourself and don’t give up. 

Who are some of your favorite under appreciated artists that you don’t think get enough attention?

Two of my favorite artists are Colin Smith from London, and Ford Crull from New York.

“Is There Anybody Out There?”, urethane and color pigments on canvas, 52 x 58 in | 132 x 147 cm, 2020

To learn more about Johan and his work, please visit