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BJORNISM

CORK BASED ARTIST MAKING WAVES WORLDWIDE

TEXT BY
LIAM BEE

01.06.21

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Emerging in recent years

as one of Ireland's most intriguing new talents,

Cork-based artist Bjornism has been making waves while exploring themes of queer pop culture, indie flicks and metal music.

 

His work is vibrant and bold both in his subject matters and aesthetic. From commissions to club nights his work was discovered by one of the world's leading queer entertainment agencies PEG - a PR powerhouse behind most of your Drag Race favourites - and he was soon creating merchandise for Katya and Divina De Campo. Now with film and fashion work in his sights, we caught up with Bjornism over Zoom to discuss all things camp, queer and Cork. And to think it all started with a series of drunken IG messages.

Okay first of all, that's such an interesting background setup, where are you?

Oh my god, thanks! This is actually just my bedroom, I moved in last week actually and I'm just trying to fill my room with loads of different random props to make it look more interesting.

 

Hoarding found items in your room is an artist's rite of passage! Where did you get your start as an artist actually?

Well, I started studying graphic design at CIT in Cork City but I was unsure whether I should have done fine art or not. Maybe it would have suited me but to be fair I did learn a lot of practical skills from that graphic design course that I still use to this day. When I was there though they told me I couldn't draw so it wasn't till after college that I decided I might start doing art again.

 

And how did you get from that to your stuff now? I feel like your stuff now is so distinct, it must have taken time to develop.

It just came from doing it every single day and over time it just developed into the style I have now. Also getting an iPad helped speed up the process way more, and I just paid a lot more attention to what I liked and integrated that into my work.

‘'Everything I draw is like a still of a film in my mind''

So I have to ask, at first glance your work is visually very bright and colourful, but on closer inspection, there is a definite gothic influence throughout your work, where does this come from?

Yeah so this is the thing I'm such a Goth at heart, I grew up being a Goth, I love Goth stuff, I love horror movies and most depressing stuff, but I figured it would be a bit of downer if that's all I was doing and I love bright colours as well so it kind of balances everything out. I think this comes back to my emo roots as well because it's a dark subject matter with bright packaging.

When we first spoke you were doing a lot of illustrations based on drag queens, are the other characters in your work based on something or are they made up?

No, most of them are made up from me just drawing and doodling. I originally wanted to be a director; my biggest hero is John Waters. I even have a John Waters tattoo but making films is really hard and so everything I draw is like a still of a film in my mind. I would love to get into filmmaking properly but I find it kind of hard to release control over my creative ideas and with film it would involve a bunch of different people working on the same project. I think I'm learning though to release that control a bit and be more open to collaboration.

 

Speaking of collaboration, We know that you've collaborated with Drag Race's Divina De Campo on her merchandise. How did that come about?

Oh yeah, there actually is a funny story to that. So I first did merch for Katya. I got a random message on IG saying that this person represented Trixie and Katya and wanted me to work on some t-shirt designs for them, and of course, at the time I was like well clearly this is fake, this has to be fake, there wasn't even an inkling in my mind that it was real. So I messaged them back being super nice asking for more details but not really thinking anything of it.

 

So fast forward to a few nights later when I was on the lash with my sister and when we went back to her house at about 4 am I was telling her about how this person was pretending to represent Trixie and Katya. So she came up with what at the time seemed like the most hilarious plan to send them videos of her pretending to be my manager with a list of demands, one of them being mandatory front row tickets to their show and so we sent them off without even a second thought.

 

So later on in the week, I was at work and I actually got an email confirming that it really was them saying that they wanted me to work on a t-shirt design for Katya and that the IG videos were cute. At first, I was like oh my god that's so cool that this is really them but what videos are they talking about though. So I went to our chat log on IG to do some investigating and realised I had sent seven or eight video's – mortified!  So yeah not my finest moment but I did the design and they ended up liking it and using it. So then a while after that they mentioned me to Divina De Campo and I worked on stuff with her, she was really nice and messaged me afterwards and all but trust me it paid for itself in how much I have used that story anecdotally throughout the years.

So what is your next project? Would you eventually like to sell your own stuff like a clothing line or something?

I've been waiting for ye to ask, so, I have been working on putting my designs on t-shirts with the hopes of eventually selling them. I'm in the process of dying them at the moment so I hand dye all of them myself and then I just need to find somewhere that will print my designs onto them to the right quality that I want. I've done the first batch and sent them to a few people and they've been really happy with them so it's just about getting more made and actually doing it. I feel like I do this as well just because I'm visualising the photoshoot to go along with it, but I'm very excited to get that going.

Well let's check back in and try make something happen in the future.

Deal.

For more on Bjornism visit their Instagram

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