Unspoiled Monsters – Johan Nobell
See the work of Johan Nobell at Sturehof and order the poster here!
Opening June 12 at 17-19.
In collaboration with Anna Bohman Gallery
The point of departure in Johan Nobells imaginary world often take place in a desolated landscape. Above the burnt plains, a sky rises which seems to be infused by alien, toxic substances. From these ruins and fragment of an unknown past, new life forms emerge: mutations, fusions, creations with no connections to the world we as we know it. Simultaneously, anactivity proceeds in the outskirts, some sort mining process, a process which perhaps further mutilates the landscape. Paradoxically, this plundering ennobles the Nobellian world. Under the sterile surface strange valuables awaits to be brought up in to the light. Their value can both be measured in beauty and the price on the market – a market, which in itself perhaps is the well from which the destruction is springing.
A question arises: Who are the Unspoiled Monsters who walk through Nobells flame-colored deserts? Are they guardians of the landscape or the victims of a nameless disaster? The monsters in Nobells new works are exposed, the artist has separated them from the setting; they are creatures who, portrayed in hasty snap-shots, mediate spleen, drollery and dread in equal measures. In their representation we meet one of the artist main influences: George Joseph Herrimans strange, surrealistic comic-strip Krazy Kat, which was published mainly in New York Evening Journal between the years 1913-44. The landscape also plays a crucial role in Herrimans artistic universe – a desert radiating of isolation and sheer beauty, where the only organic life is few, lonely cactuses. This desert is the scene where the drama takes place between the lovesick Krazy Kat and the object of his/hers (Krazy Kat´s sex is a much discussed topic) desire, the mouse Ignatz who responds to Krazy Katz´s yearnings with a cannonade of bricks. These “monsters” – Ignatz and Krazy Kat – inhibits the same timbre of sorrow and slapstick as the characters in Nobells work. One can also trace influences in Nobells work to the American artist George Catlin (1796-1872). In 1832 Catlin travelled upstream the Missouri river and inventoried a world which was “new” to the European explorers, and at the same time slowly dying and disappearing. Catlins portraits of the Mandan Indians glow of a tragic undercurrent. The tribe was reduced from 1600 individuals to 125 by a horrible smallpox epidemic two years after Catlins visit. These “savages” and “noble monsters” who posed for Catlins portraits, had already vanished by the time the paintings reached the walls of the salons.
Nobells works is constructed of multiple layers of storytelling: art history, our contemporary society, the Big History: the story of ourselves…
Fredrik Ekman, author