From the exhibition Down Иorth at Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden 2023/24

From the exhibition Down Иorth at Reykjavik Art Museum/Hafnarhús, Reykjavik, Iceland 2022/23


by Markús Þór Andrésson, curator Reykjavík Art Museum 

From the Down Иorth - North Atlantic Triennalexhibition catalogue, published by Portland Museum of Art, Maine, USA, Reykjavík Art Museum, Iceland and Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden

Mixed emotions towards the environment, especially the ocean, appear in Jóhan Martin Christiansen’s sculpture. The work echoes the nature in the artist’s home country, the surf on the coast of the Faroe Islands, and the urban landscape of Copenhagen, where he lives and works. The sculpture Flip Flop is based on a delicate mix of different materials, including construction steel, construction netting, plaster and lights. It keels over itself, reminiscent of waves. The plaster is broken as it hasn’t connected to the foundation, the fragments lie strewn across the floor. An iron rod runs decisively and straight through the work, adorned with a lit fluorescent bulb. Jóhan puts forward a reminder of the perceptual relationship of man and his environment. The work appeals strongly to the senses, the surface is rich in details that you can look at for a long time, and it contains complex references in its entirety. The artist’s clear will to create a defined form and handle a certain material contends with factors largely out of his control, like gravity and the physical properties of the materials. In its materiality, the work references the man-made, but it also reminds us of uncontrollable and natural factors such as time and decay.

At first glance, Jóhan’s sculpture has an apocalyptic look, it’s like something enormous went down and is over. This evokes ideas of the Anthropocene, the period in geohistory where the effects of man’s actions are evident. How will man leave the planet, will it be a smouldering ruin or can nature get the upper hand and erase all signs of him? The care in every detail of the sculpture – that become apparent upon closer inspection – then counteracts this first impression. These are the signs of a creative individual, offering hope that with meticulousness, artistic ability and ingenuity there is no reason to despair. There is also something curious about Jóhan’s creative process, regarding how he works, how he allows the work to come into being, rather than making it. It is effortless, unpretentious and vulnerable, but also a bit silly. Jóhan seeks new ways to discuss the environment and man’s position towards it, and you get a feeling that this search – even more than numerical information – is what we need today.


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