Back cover of Myths Vol. 1, a 12-inch record for Powerblytt, a Bergen-based label, 2007. Photographer: Magne Sandnes.
lives in Bergen, Norway
The principals of Grandpeople aren’t only illustrators. The Bergen, Norway–based three-man studio, consisting of Magnus Helgesen, Magnus Voll Mathiassen, and Christian Strand Bergheim, are designers who do a little bit of everything, including pencil-and-paper illustration. “Our main focus is visual communication through design,” says Mathiassen. “Illustration is just one of many ways to create imagery to a certain product or message.” Clients have repeatedly commissioned these drawings. The studio has worked on photographer Zach Gold’s art and fashion project, Playground, collaborated with fellow Norwegian Kim Hiorthøy for Tokion, and created luscious album covers for the dance music producer Skatebård. Their illustrations have also appeared in magazines, such as Grafik and Fabrik. The images often juxtapose hard angles and soft lines with layers of color, creating a forest of pop-cultural references in deep perspective. Mathiassen, whose answers below stand in for the group as a whole, doesn’t deny the organic qualities of the work: “The fascination and fear of nature have always been a part of Norwegian and Scandinavian iconography, and Grandpeople is also a part of this tradition.”
What person do you first remember influencing you to draw? What do you like to draw most now? An older boy in our neighborhood used to make these amazing drawings of American trucks, and I decided I wanted to learn how to do the same. I later discovered he was tracing photographs of posters through the paper! No wonder they looked so cool. Nowadays, it’s slightly more abstract and obscure. The three of us in Grandpeople have very different approaches to techniques and subject matter, but we often make references to nature and pop culture. Sometimes it’s representational and sometimes not. Sometimes, the drawings have artistic ambitions, and sometimes it’s just for the hell of it.
What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t doing this? Probably studying to become either (a) a pretty mediocre academic, (b) an overly enthusiastic primary school teacher, or (c) a pirate.
What are some of the strangest jobs you’ve had? I had a nice time cleaning up bloodstains, pieces of bone, and fat in the department of surgery at the local hospital. Honest and important work, lousy pay.
What do you like most about being an illustrator? Least? It’s nice to be able to draw pictures and create images with your hands and all, but to be constantly reminded of your own limitations is pretty close to unbearable.
Is your work specifically Norwegian in some way? To a certain degree, yes. The fascination and fear of nature have always been a part of Norwegian and Scandinavian iconography, and Grandpeople is also a part of this tradition. But the romanticized idea of highbrow “Scandinavian Design” has little or no relevance to us. Our main influences come from popular and subcultural movements.
Where would you like to see your work most? We have always enjoyed printed matter. And we have nothing but respect and admiration for the fine trade of printing and bookbinding.
What’s the number-one thing that gives you energy and inspiration to keep making art? Letters and e-mails from people around the world are nice, and satisfied clients are also important, but the number-one motivation is probably the satisfaction of nailing a good idea with real, time-consuming craftsmanship.
Do you have a motto or favorite quotation? Seize the pay.