The work of painter Johan Ray Pedersen forms part of the Liljevalchs spring season, and together with photographer Viktor Johansson, he is about to stage an exhibition called Maskulin. Focussing on the concept of manliness and expectations of what a man is supposed to be, it opens at Young Art on April 11th.
How did you end up with the idea behind Maskulin?
After I quit art school in 2011 I had a creative crisis. Did I want to continue doing art at all? I had spent almost two months in an introspective phase, painting a damn huge painting of 38 cocks in some sort of bouquet and wanting to see if there was any value in really dedicating paint to something that was considered ugly. I liked to paint horses, but I was often told it was ”unmanly”, and it didn’t improve when I realised that horses and bodybuilders have a similar structure. To print pictures of oiled-up men in tiny man panties and make them into horses, and at the same time painting cocks created questions – even at a tolerant art school.
After getting in contact with Antonia at Young Art, we created this project with photographer Viktor Johansson, and together we have made an exhibition about what is considered manly or not.
Did you learn anything new from the process of working with the exhibition?
For a long time I thought I was quite secure in my ”manliness”, but then it quite recently became clear to me that I feel more secure simply as a human being. We should throw away the ideas about the different sexes and focus more on what is really human.
You have been working as a sailor and technician for most of your adult life – but now as a kindergarten teacher too. How has that influenced your ideas about male identity?
All my life I have worked in male-dominated work places. I never liked things like hunting, fishing and sport, which made me different in those circumstances. I grew up with my grandpa as my idol, he was a real ”manly man” and I was taught early what a real man was supposed to be like. It took me many years to get out of old trains of thought and prejudices.
What’s your hopes for this year?
Some space to think, to travel, to have enough time to spend with friends and family. And that Stockholm gets a bit more dirty, a bit cheaper and more salt in the water.