Simen Johan—an award-winning, internationally exhibiting artist, and a pioneer in digital image-making is publishing his third monograph. Representing 15 years of the artist’s career, and gathered here for the very first time in this deluxe volume, are his celebrated uncanny animal portraits, otherworldly landscapes, and psychologically-charged narrative natural scenes.
With a unique creative process that combines candid wildlife photography with digital manipulation, cinematic drama and a painterly approach, Simen Johan summons a metaphorically dense world into being where human fantasy and nature collide. In a catalogue essay, David E. Little, Executive Director of the International Center of Photography, writes: “Johan’s photographs underscore the importance of the creative act in photography, not as an act in itself, but as a means towards a conceptual and narrative goal.”
Traveling both near and far to photograph his source material, Johan can find inspiration anywhere from the local zoo to the jungles of Costa Rica, or the lava fields of Iceland. He then spends countless hours assembling his images captured in these far-flung locations into a unifying whole. The result is an often-unsettling sense of placelessness.
We see in this collection images of pigeons flocking toward light like moths (or angels); stripes on a dazzle of Grévy’s zebras mesh with the fronds of geographically incongruent palms; two hapless caribou glazed with ice, frozen in a scene that is both tranquil and brutal.
Each image reveals poetic and often unexpected relationships that speak to the illusory and multifaceted nature of existence. Tensions between what is revealed and what is concealed, what is alluring and what is menacing, what is fact and what is fiction, both shape and unsettle the scenes. Johan presents us with paradoxical photographic worlds that echo uncanny versions of our own.
Simen Johan originally drew attention in the early 1990s by merging digital manipulation with traditional darkroom techniques. Since then, he has been developing a hybrid form of image-making that integrates candidly photographed animals and landscapes with a compositional structuring and conceptual intent typically associated with painting and cinema. In a 2016 issue of Photograph Magazine, Lyle Rexer proclaimed: “…one of the first and best artists invading the new [digital] territory was Simen Johan.” Johan’s artwork has been exhibited worldwide and is part of numerous permanent museum collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum of art, the Brooklyn Museum, and Cleveland Art Museum. Prestigious awards, include a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts and the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation at Brown University. Comme des Garcons and Louis Vuitton have featured his art in campaigns. Simen Johan was born in 1973 in Kirkenes, the extreme north of Norway, and currently lives and works in New York.