The art of Jóhann Ludwig Torfason reflects his attitude to social issues. Imagery is applied to the pop and consumer culture and is the focal point often from the perspective of children, by the use of images created for training and games. Principles of the artmarket are also the center of his work with the operations of Torfason’s “faux business”, the company Pabbakné (Daddy’s knee) that produces his works.

Torfason was born 1965 in Reykjavík, Iceland and studied Printmaking and Multimedia in The Icelandic College of Art and Crafts 1985-­90. He has held solo exhibitions and participate in numerous exhibitions in Iceland and internationally. Founder of art­project/company Pabbakné. Co ­founder of Comic Magazine Gisp. Teacher and Head of Printmaking Studio in Iceland Academy of the Arts since 2006.

Selected Soloshows

2015 50X50X50, Icelandic Printmakers Association, Reykjavík

2013 Riddles, Gallery Listamenn, Reykjavík

2012 Gallerí Klósett, Reykjavík

2007 ASÍ Art Museum, Reykjavík

2005 The Corridor, Reykjavík

Selected Groupshows

2016 Nautn -Conspiracy of Pleasure, Akureyri Art Museum

2015 Reykjavík Stories, Quartair, Den Haag, Holland

2014 “Sic” (with Ragnhildur Jóhanns) Gallery Kunstschlager, Reykjavík

2012 Dedication, Studio Stafn, Reykjavík

2011 Two pair, Gallery 002, Hafnafjörður

2010 Art Comic Life, Nordiska Akvarellmuseet, Sweden

2006 Painting after 1980, National Gallery of Iceland, Reykjavík


18.401 (Publiction & performance) 2016

Gráttu drengur gráttu, 2016

Úr því sem komið er – As it is, 2015

Ný leikföng – New Toys. 2007

Dolls 2001

Gisp ­ Comic Magazine 1990-­2015 (11 issues)


National Gallery of Iceland.

Municipal Art Gallery of Reykjavik, Iceland

Icelandair Art Collection, Reykjavik, Iceland



Few words on the work “Musculoskeletal” exhibit in the group show Nautn – Conspiracy of Pleasure at Akureyri Art Museum 2016.


Pabbakné’s headquarters are not here, but in your head are the workshop and the tools, the knowledge and the bullshit. You hardly recognise your own ideas which the company is sketching, framing and selling back to you. The company’s Musculoskeletal is with out limits the company’s affection towards you. Certainly it holds your hand through out the whole day, it comforts you on a depressive summer evening, writes the manuscript of an exiting dream, were you are always in the leading role and it awakes you into a new day with a brand new promises of uncontrolled culture consumption.

The backbone of the company is your affection towards it, which you express best by becoming a friend with benefit, for only 0.6% of your lifetime income. And it will not hurt if the company acquired a share in your imagination and fantasies, when you allow them to flow unhindered in your mind, in private if you prefer so.

The company protests for you against governments, the treatment of refugees, nationalism and general boredom. It elects you for president, supports you with the prevailing authorities and the National Church, but only if you prefer. It escorts you to the toilet but feels better in bed – with you.

The company Pabbakné raises your child with you, counting from the conception. It lubricates their provisions and both writes and reads the evening stories. The company follows them like a shadow through the educational system and to their professional life and will in addition become their sanctuary at leisure. It looks after their elderly parents, children and grandchildren and of course follows their friends and relatives to the grave. Because not only is Pabbakné our first toy but also the last.  (A.L.H.)


Markús Þór Andrésson on Pabbakné’s Musculoskeletal:

Jóhann Ludwig Torfason presents a system and a process, but in a form of a pictorial test. He shows different games that resemble board games or rebuses. When taking a closer look, a more dubious message lies behind, out of tune with what is commonly accepted. Sexual fantasies, prejudice and addiction are presented in a innocent manner, but in the form of a contest or a result-driven game. The work’s aesthetics use post-war imagery; when a certain innocence and playfulness characterized all marketing. Thereby we are reminded of the fact that values and standards regarding moral issues often depend on the Zeitgeist. Some issues that are repressed during one period can later be accepted, or a negative picture drawn up of something that was customary before. Jóhann’s art creation is presented under the synonym of an imaginary workshop which he calls Daddy’s knee. It first came into play in 2005, as some kind of a caption or company that gave artists a change to present work under someone else’s name than their own. Although the secrecy  is just a game, and who is actually behind the works is clear to everyone, this alter ego opens up the possibility for a different type of expression. At the same time, the arrangement reflects how easy it is for an individual in a capitalistic society to elude personal responsibility. Pleasures thrive under the protection of the market economy, not to mention greed, that otherwise would have fewer outlets. Sexual and physical pleasure play a role in Jóhann’s well-balanced and stylized imagery.

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