Artist Profile: Jonathan Josefsson’s Rugs


By Kenneth Miller

Chances are you walked over a rug today. Perhaps the encounter took place in your very own home, or maybe across the tweed beauty laid at the entrance of your go-to cafe. At large, we pass by these everyday furnishings with little inspection or awe; they’re everywhere, after all.

But, to Swedish artist Jonathan Josefsson, rugs are the epitome of fine craftsmanship and demand a degree of consideration. After spending 15 years tagging large-scale walls on the streets of Gothenburg with still-standing, legendary graffiti, Josefsson began to fiddle with the ancient art form of rug weaving during his last academic year at the University at Gothenburg.

What later resulted would be nothing similar to the traditional, oriental tapestries found in your friendly, neighborhood decor shop; Josefsson’s rugs are essentially threaded sculptures, exclusively seen on the walls of international galleries.

Art critics and bloggers have keyed the term “Sculptural Rugs” when describing Josefsson’s work. He tells me this term isn’t necessarily accurate–and is principally misleading.

“There are different levels of height in my rugs’ thread, and this gives viewers a sculptural feeling,” he says. “The actual process is tufting, which revolves around a machine-powered gun that shoots yarn into a stretched fabric.”

Josefsson enjoys this medium. It’s limitless in its possibilities and helps him transform his contemporary abstract views into something legible for the masses. He tells me his graffiti work plays a large role in this quintessential transcribing. Oftentimes, he witnesses identical movements and notions take place within both his wall and rug pieces.

“When I first tried tufting, I realized I could think and work in the same ways as when I am painting,” Josefsson explains. “It’s a very free approach to rug making, which luckily means I get to play a lot with the form of the rug.”

Seemingly inspired by rigid landscapes, cellular structures, and the unremitting charge (rather need for escape), Josefsson brings forth fluid, organic imagery while peaking others’ interests with vibrant, color-clashing schemes. He lets me know these patterns are improvised and don’t wholly connote to anything until their completion.

Such a lack of structure is hard to believe. Josefsson’s process–to a novice’s eye–is meticulous, while simultaneously filled with ease. The rug buff posted his procedure on YouTube to show fans what the tufting process looks like.

With minimal lull, Josefsson excavates yarn through a distilled fabric, proving that rugs can, in fact, be works of art.

Now, it’s just our hard, grueling challenge to get our floor game up to par with Josefsson’s revolution.

All images courtesy of Jonathan Josefsson.