Exhibitions, Landscape

Simen Johan’s matrix of the natural world go on show in New York

Image © Simen Johan, courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery

An exhibition of new photographic works by Simen Johan, the Norwegian artist known for his "psychologically charged depictions of the natural world," is about to go on show at New York's Yossi Milo Gallery.

Simen Johan was born in 1973 in Kirkenes, the extreme north of Norway, and raised in Sweden. After attending film school at Lugnetskolan in Falun, Sweden, Johan moved to New York City in 1992 to continue his studies at the city’s School of Visual Arts.

He now works primarily in New York City, becoming a mainstay of the city’s galleries. It will be the Norwegian photographer’s ninth exhibition at the prestigious Chelsea-based gallery.

Johan made his name in the early 90s by merging digital manipulation techniques with traditional darkroom photography practices.

Since then, he has been developing a hybrid form of image-making that integrates photographs of animals and landscapes with a “compositional structuring and conceptual intent typically associated with painting.”

“In a reality where understanding is never total, I depict ‘living’ as an emotion-driven experience, engulfed in uncertainty, desire and illusion,” Johan writes of his work.

Writing for National Geographic, Sarah Leen said Simen’s work “expresses, in a very personal way, ideas about habitat, climate change, critical species, and man’s impact on nature.”

Photographing in a wide range of locations, Johan’s images reveal “poetic and often unexpected relationships that speak to the illusory and multifaceted nature of existence,” the gallery said in a statement.

Johan’s images focus on things like stripes of Grévy’s zebras meshing with geographically incongruent palms, jaguars in a tree obscured in the dappled sun, pigeons flocking towards the light. The gallery produce the images at life-scale.

“The so-called truth behind Johan’s photographs is that they are an amalgam of hundreds of photographs. The photographer produces high-resolution images by pressing the button in locations far and wide, from the San Diego Zoo to Africa,” said David E. Little, Director of the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, in an essay dedicated to Johan’s work.

“Like a film director, he makes the final cut and blends the images into a seamless whole. The final picture becomes a single geographic point, unifying a matrix of world locations.”

Johan has previously had solo exhibitions at the David Winton Bell Gallery of Brown University, Providence, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, the 21c Museum, Louisville and the Pollock Gallery at Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

Johan’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Brooklyn Museum, New York, Cleveland Museum of Art and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada.

Johan received the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in 2002, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2009 and the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Grant for Photography in 2012.

Simen Johan, on view from May 26 through August 10 at Yossi Milo Gallery, Scandinavia House, 58 Park Avenue, New York.