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Internationally recognised artist Erik Johansson will exhibit for the first time in Finland

Published: 17.3.2021

The stunning photographs of Swedish artist Erik Johansson, who is exhibiting for the first time in Finland, can be seen at the Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art in Vaasa. The artist’s extensive solo exhibition Places Beyond will be shown at the Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art in summer 2021.

Artist Erik Johansson (b.1985) has succeeded in creating large photographic works containing visual impossibilities that can even mislead the viewer and take them to a surreal reality. In his photographs, the Swedish artist conjures up worlds where imagination meets reality. He skilfully uses the camera and image processing software to combine elements that confuse the viewer with his seemingly realistic photographs. In pieces of works that embody reality and imagination, the perspective surprisingly turns upside down.

The name of the exhibition Places Beyond also describes its content. According to the artist, his photographs are:

“A tribute to places that affect us during our lives, as well as to self-created places that lie outside the obvious. Places can be physical, what we can experience with our senses, and places that we carry within and that only we ourselves can access. They are stories of worlds that exist and do not exist. They are descriptions of real things on the one hand and things deeply known to everyone on the other.

Johansson’s work as an image creator is based on technical know-how and an ability to create visual eye-turning tricks, like endless stairs, in the spirit of Dutchman M.C. Escher. His training includes, for example, interaction design. Johansson is also a computer engineer interested in technical and mathematical problem solving as well as visuals related to illustration.

Johansson’s work process is multi-stage and time-consuming. In his sketches and drawings, the artist builds physical models from, for example, cardboard, paper, flour or fluids. He then photographs the shapes and structures of the materials as part of his works. The artist’s image bank includes hundreds of photographs of already existing landscapes, buildings, animals and people. Using a montage-technique, he combines different elements into a digitally finished image.

Born in Sweden in 1985, Johansson grew up on a farm in Västra Götaland County. The study of nature, as well as the Swedish landscape, are recurring elements in his photographs. The Scandinavian landscape, even the rural idyll, is repeated in sunny and positive photographs. His works are also influenced by the fairy-tale worlds of Elsa Beskow and Sven Nordqvist, as well as the surrealism of Salvador Dalí and René Magritte.

According to Johansson, each of us is creative when born into the world, and in a child’s world, imagination is reality. Magic and truth are not yet opposites. However, imagination must be practised in the same way as other growth-related skills such as reading, counting, or muscle fitness.

“I used to think that my imagination was a gold mine that I was excavating piece by piece, and that I one day would stand there looking down on an empty pit. But over the years I’ve noticed that the more I work with my images, and the freer and more creative my thinking is, the richer it becomes. Imagination turns out to be a treasure trove that gets filled the more you take from it. But imagination is a thinking-muscle that needs to be exercised; just like everything else it needs time and space in our lives to grow and develop.”

The photographs of the internationally recognised artist Erik Johansson have been displayed in various parts of the world, such as Australia, South Korea, Norway, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, but never before in Finland. The exhibition Places Beyond arrives in Vaasa from Fotografiska Tallinn, where it was on display in 2020. Erik Johansson lives and works in Prague, but his international career has taken the artist as a photographer to different parts of the world.

Erik Johansson: Places Beyond Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art the 12th June – the 24th October 2021