Art and the Home: A Conversation with Contemporary Artist Gunnar Magnus
By Linda Guido, Lic. Assoc. R. E. Broker, Brown Harris Stevens
Welcome to Art and the Home, a monthly series featuring interviews with contemporary artists and interior designers, as well as resources for your own art collection. This first conversation is with Gunnar Magnus, a young New York-based artist whose figurative abstract expressionist works have been gaining attention in galleries around the city.
Before jumping in, a little bit of context for how and why this series came about. As a teenager, I was filled with passion for all kinds of art: pottery, jewelry-making, painting, and drawing. I’d spend eight hours a day in class at the Parson’s School of Design, then go sit at The Met or The Frick and draw for hours. For various reasons, I eventually migrated into the business world, and in 2002 joined Halstead as a real estate agent.
A few years ago, I was introduced to a gallery owner in search of an apartment in Manhattan. During his home-finding process, we developed a friendship and I began attending his openings. My love for art was rekindled. I soon realized that my real estate career and the art world were closely linked—once someone finds a place to call home, they naturally seek out artwork with which to fill it.
Since then, I’ve met, learned from, and supported the work of artists throughout the city, Gunnar included. I spoke with him about his work, his inspirations, and his advice for other artists. My conversation with him is below. Enjoy.
Tell me a little about yourself and how you got started in art.
I grew up in Harrison, New York, then when I was about 15, my family moved to Connecticut. Now I live in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I got my start in art right around when I could walk and talk. I was always drawing from a very young age, and that continued until my early teens, when I took a long break. I got back into art out of necessity. I had no real passion in my life until I started creating again, and now it’s my entire life and I couldn’t be happier.
What kind of artist do you consider yourself to be?
I guess you could call me an abstract painter, but really they’re mostly figurative abstracts. The work almost always features characters, beasts, heroes, villains. It really walks a fine line between the two, I think.
What motivates and inspires you to paint?
My motivations and inspiration always come from within: my mind, my emotions, and my subconscious are always working hand in hand. It all fits together and flows very nicely.
Has your motivation changed over time?
So far, no. I’ve always drawn from introspection. That’s one thing that’s stayed very consistent.
Has your art changed over time?
It has, quite a bit actually. My starting point two years ago was a very loose and expressive style. Then, I phased through Cubist and surrealist phases that felt a bit tight and too calculated for where my strengths lie. Now I’ve circled back to that loose and free style but I feel like this time around, it’s 100% my own style—my own voice.
Is there something you are trying to convey through your art, a message you are communicating to your audience?
Where do you hope to go with your art in the short and long term?
Short and long term, I’d just like to keep seeing my career grow and expand. I’d really like to continue making a name for myself here in New York in particular, but I definitely have my eyes on some international affairs in the near future. Long term, I want to have a slow and steady growth. I definitely don’t want to fly too close to the sun and fizzle out.
What would you say to someone interested in pursuing art?
To know yourself on all sides is absolute strength. Know your power and know your weakness. Be like water. Adapt, flow, and crash as life needs you to. And finally, relentlessly pursue your passions. There’s no greater reward in life than doing what you love, relentlessly.
Thank you to Gunnar for sharing his time and creativity. To see more of his work, take a look at his Instagram page and Art Apple NYC’s website. Gunnar’s work is also on view at Six Summit Gallery inside Port Authority Bus Terminal and in the window display of 209 West 38th Street in the Garment District.