He is honest, an example of consistency in being and doing. He is able to perceive with the same serenity that is inferred from his works and his words. Jon Koko is a clear balance between life and creativity – an artist who spreads new values, keeping himself humble before his duty, with a fresh perception shaped by knowledge. In his work, form and content are harmonically combined, without any noise or adornment. You can’t help but merging with his illustrated spaces.
You were born in the 80’s and you live in Malmo, but beyond what we find in your biographical resume, can you tell us who Jon Koko is?
I’m a simple person with a Spartan lifestyle. I think I spend 20 hours per day in solitude, which is of course painful at times, but mostly it’s actually very pleasant. It has been like this for the last 4 years or so, I’m used to it (laughs). I need my distance from society and people, otherwise I can feel lost, stressed and confused. I easily become frustrated if I don’t do what I believe to be meaningful to me. So my priority is always to do what I want and need.
You have studied Japanese Art, Architecture and Visual Culture, Animation in Flash and Aesthetic Art&Form. Which is the result of this fusion of knowledge? Please, explain us your training process and how do you think it has affected your work.
To me, Japanese Art is a very important influence. Not only in that obvious way of beautiful design and form, but for what is hidden underneath! Before studying Japanese Art I learned some valuable principles from Taoism and Buddhism. I listened to Tao Te Ching almost every day on my iPod. It changed my life completely and I can recommend all people in the world to read it because it is such an eye opener. It became more obvious to me as I actually learned similar things later when I was studying Japanese Arts, but in the context of making art. The Ink wash paintings and the Noh theatre are examples of this. The main thing is space. Until I was 22 I had not realised or even experienced what space was like and how fundamentally important it is for inspiration. Through meditation and studying, I learned and experienced it. It’s a great discovery for me and I hope it can be felt in my work.
Understanding that nowadays it is pretty difficult to be able to define oneself in the creative sphere, what do you reply when somebody asks you, “what do you do for a living?”
At the moment I just reply, “I do what I want for a living.” I try to avoid talking too much about my work because it bores other people. Okay, if someone is genuinely interested then of course, I will tell them about it.
And regarding your background, in general which are your essential references?
I used to have essential references but they are not so obvious anymore. Before, I mainly got inspired by other’s art and visual beauty, but now music and visualisation are two major ways to get new ideas. Traveling abroad also makes me very stimulated and inspired. I have to say it’s the best thing I know. When everything you look at is fresh, it is also easier to find beauty in it.
Illustration was the way for us to discover your creative profile. When did you decide to dedicate yourself to this particular practice?
It came natural to me a couple of years ago to make illustrations, because I needed to develop my style. When I get to a certain point, I look at my present and previous work as a preparation for a bigger task, like some sort of level of skill that I must achieve before I can start with the real deal. It’s like if the mature part of me was not yet satisfied with the result so far, so I have to keep on doing this until I reach a limit good enough. The next step for me is more traditional.
Your illustrations evoke a certain distance and calm, there is something oneiric and harmonic on them and they seem to have a very balanced compositional sensibility. How would you define your own work? Which is the most usual feedback from your audience?
Calm is the most common feedback from people, indeed. I guess calm is something positive. At least, it’s something I strive for every day. Sweden is peaceful and quiet most of the time, compared to many other places. Cities and landscapes are often covered by thick layers of clouds, which create a constant grey filter that dim all colours naturally. If you take feelings and add some eastern thoughts, you might be pretty close to a description of my artwork.
In general, how would you define your creative and work process?
I constantly hunt for experiences that give me deep satisfaction. It works like being a creator with total freedom in a video game. From there on, I imagine elements of architecture, environments, water, and add symmetry and characters. I do it to create some sort of scenery that I feel I enjoy being in. It becomes a nice playground.
I assume that, as most of the artists, you combine your personal projects with other external assignments less related to your work and your personal objectives. If so, how do you manage this situation?
I cannot handle it. So I have figured out it is better to focus the entire energy on becoming a successful artist and live on crumbs and water, instead of compromising and losing my creative hunger.
Obviously, you sell your work as a part of the value process of your artistic activity. How is your personal experience on that area? Which is the profile of the people that acquire your work?
It’s a big range of different kinds of people that purchase my things. I’m really happy that my artwork can reach all ages.
Is your work available in any gallery or shop besides the e-shop on your personal site?
Not at the moment, but it will be in the future.
We would like to follow the next steps in your career. Please tell us, what are you working in now? Do you have any on-going project or exhibition, something in mind for the near future?
I work with some illustrations and I sketch a lot every day. I went to Japan earlier this year and took lots of notes and recordings there. I will create pieces related to that last journey and my present state of mind. Parallel to that, I am creating house models. I have realised that it is the funniest thing I have ever done since I played with Lego. So hopefully I can exhibit my house models one day too!