Looking into the mind of Jan Hakon Erichsen

In Review: Martin Parr - Return to Manchester

In Review: Martin Parr - Return to Manchester


In Review: Martin Parr - Return to Manchester

In Review: Martin Parr - Return to Manchester

In Review: Martin Parr - Return to Manchester


Looking into the mind of Jan Hakon Erichsen

Art says things without speaking and can be heard in all languages, although some things may differ in translation. It is a more personal experience than music, film or fashion as it broadens a persons conceptual ability for interpretation and understanding. Whilst art can take many forms that aren’t simply confined to beginning with a blank white canvas, Jan Hakon Erichsen has begun to undertake a weird and wonderful form of art that I was yet to discover. He takes household objects and merges them with himself and other ordinary objects to create an art of destruction, danger and beauty, a master of the oddly satisfying desires that lay deep in our hearts. He now capitalises on the opportunities that comes with the media, sharing his work with hundreds of thousands of people each day. The abstract art that can be found on Jan's Instagram page is constantly pushing the boundaries of its predecessors, evolving to become a more empowered form of visual art each day, with frequent content to keep fans engaged Jan does not show signs of slowing down or going back to a different style of art anytime soon.

Tell us a bit about yourself and when you started your work.

I´m a Norwegian artist based in Oslo. I´ve been making art with everyday objects since my art school days at the National Academy of Art which I graduated from back in 2004.

Where do you get your inspirations from?

Everyday life, the objects that surround me and other artists mostly. I´m particularly inspired by the performance and video artists from the beginning of those genres, like Bruce Nauman and Rebecca Horn. I try to combine the energy and aesthetics from that era with the viral videos of our days.

What is important for you during your creative process/ How do you get into the right headspace?

The most important thing is having the right objects available in my studio and enough time on my hands. And lots of coffee of course.

Have you ever been injured whilst making art?

No, my videos usually look more dangerous than they really are. I always do a few tests before I start filming, so I have only gotten a few bruises and scratches so far.

What is your favourite medium to create with?

I have different phases where I love one thing for a little while and then go on to another thing to obsess over. The only things I never get bored with are balloons and knives, since I never seem to run out of new ways to use them. 

What was your first set up?

I´ve had the same studio ever since I finished art school and the only thing that has really changed is that I´m really careful to preserve one semi clean corner of my studio for filming now. The rest of my studio is usually a complete chaos.

What does the future look like for your work?

I will probably return to the gallery world at some point and I´d like to see how my Instagram art works in that setting, but for now my main objective is to make work to show online. Before my Instagram started taking off it wasn´t unusual for me to have gallery shows visited by less than 100 visitors and now my videos get seen by hundreds of thousands so it feels a lot more rewarding at the moment.

Have you faced any difficulties with your work?

My biggest obstacle is time, I try my best to get new content out every day and getting the time to do that can be a challenge. I´m not worried about people not understanding what I do and I don´t really get creative blocks. The main thing is to just keep on working and then the ideas will come. Sometimes people like it sometimes they don´t, but I can´t think about that when I´m in my studio.

If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive who would it be?

Buster Keaton! I´m a big fan of slapstick and no one has done it better than him in my opinion.

If you could hybrid 2 animals for a physical form and 1 as a personality what would they be?

I would like to see a flying dolphin, so I´d give the dolphin eagle wings and the personality of a mini pig which is the funniest animal in the universe.


in Review: Martin Parr – Return to Manchester

On until the 22nd April 2019, ‘Return to Manchester’ is an intimate, engaging exhibition of documentary photography. The experience is nostalgic. Not only is the visitor is invited to track developments in the city of Manchester, but also the career and style of Martin Parr, from 1970 through to 2018. Whilst Manchester itself and the people in it change, Parr’s interest with the ordinary, the personal and the seemingly mundane is a constant. What is truly remarkable is his ability to present these things as full of beauty and meaning. Parr’s early work captures pubs, hairdressers, young music fans and the living rooms of ordinary families, all, as Manchester Art Gallery puts it, ‘celebrating the humanity of the everyday.’ 

Born in Epsom, Surrey, Martin Parr was a photography student at Manchester Polytechnic between 1970 – 1973 and has gone to be one of the nation’s eminent photographers, president of the prestigious Magnum Photos between 2014 and 2017. But it was in Manchester that Parr began his first major work, and the impression made upon him by the city is clear. Having avoided expulsion from the university only after his tutor’s intervention, it was always a fight for Parr to document the subjects in which he was interested. He recalls being taught by the university proscribed commercial techniques, including how to make gone-off doughnuts looks appealing in certain lighting. Indeed, at the time, an interest in photography for artistic purposes was rare, and so the move beyond the commercial sector was fundamentally underground, and often driven by young, aspirational students like himself.

Parr, then, played a role in establishing a new form of documentary photography, presenting itself not as journalism, but art. Inspiration was abundant. For him, arriving in Manchester from the south ‘was very exciting and felt very real.’ This appreciation of somewhere new and different comes across strongly, particularly in Parr’s earlier work, which is almost entirely concerned with Manchester’s industrial working class. Perhaps most striking in this section of the exhibition is the way in which he foregrounds individuals against decrepitude and industry. Despite the crumbling redbrick backdrops there is a sense of personality, hope and happiness that shines through. 


As the exhibition moves forward chronologically, Parr documents the changes that the city has experienced, but there is also a deep sense of continuity throughout, most obviously that people remain of primary importance. Although the Manchester of 2018 is a rapidly developing metropolitan city, and its inhabitants from all corners of the globe, there remains an emphasis on humanity and personality in Parr’s work. Identity is another constant, whether it be that of the industrial working class, Manchester’s massive Irish population or the present-day LGBTQ+ community. Parr explores the interplay between these coalescing subcultures and what it means to be Mancunian.  

As well as a chronological change, one witnesses a stark stylistic break in 1986, when the photographs shift from black and white into colour, a move which helps to contrast the vibrancy and dynamism captured in the 2018 commission against the earlier work. Change is clear in other areas too. There is growing diversity, and by 2018 Parr is capturing the modern world in all its complexity: gay pride, mosques, veganism, consumerism and corporate business. However, not all change is positive, and there are things that are lost as well as gained. The beautifully captured intimacy of shopping in the 1980’s, for instance, when family-run, community-serving businesses were the norm, has completely gone from the more recent pictures. Instead there are soulless chains like Caffe Nero, without any of the charm and identity of old. Manchester’s slicker and more professional image is mirrored in Parr’s style. He is no longer the young student exploring new topics and techniques, but an established figure, with all the tools of modern technology at his fingertips. 

Photography is by its very nature one of the more democratic, accessible forms of art. The point of contact with the topic seems more direct, less mediated by the artist, and with Martin Parr this seems especially true. Whilst photographers like Kevin Cummins have captured the cities’ seminal cultural figures, such as Tony Wilson, Peter Hook or Ian Brown, ‘Return to Manchester’ celebrates the overlooked, the unheralded and the everyday. The culture explored by Parr in the 1970’s is expressly underground, it is gritty and real, found in bars and on street corners. The exhibition then maps his transition from untrained 19-year-old to celebrated professional, a development reflected in the gentrification of Manchester that he traces through his work. To follow these changes in both a city and a career is incredibly interesting. Certainly worth the visit.

Joe Ronan