In his photographs, Simen Johan explores darkly the human proclivity towards fantasy and our attempts, knowing or otherwise, to craft alternate realities for ourselves. Merging traditional photographic techniques with digital methods, Johan creates each of his images from as many as one hundred negatives, having first constructed or discovered each element and photographed it on film. Across his body of work, the viewer is urged to ponder the relationship between the real and the artificial or imagined.
In his most recent images, from the series “Until the Kingdom Comes”, Johan depicts animals in scenarios where their actions or demeanor mirror human conventions. The images allude to our inclination to anthropomorphize and domesticate what we see and find around us, and they speak to realms of emotion, our fears and desires, rather than reason. In his earlier work Johan explored the unique relationship that children have with the unknown, constructing complex photographic worlds that seem to grow wild from young imaginations. In some images the children are prominently featured, wrapped up in acts of play or ritual as the makers of their own worlds, while in others they’ve vanished completely, leaving only the enigmatic traces of their mischief.
Simen Johan’s work has been widely exhibited internationally, and is in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Cleveland Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and other major institutions. Johan’s first monograph, Room to Play, was published by Twin Palms in 2003. Born in Norway and raised in Sweden, Johan earned his B.F.A at the School of Visual Arts, in New York, where he currently resides.