Review of the groupexhibition BROT at The National Gallery of The Faroe Islands

by Kinna Poulsen, art critic (excerpt)


The newest piece featured in the exhibition is a colossal installation by Jóhan Martin Christiansen in steel, glass, LED light fixtures, lemons, lilies and assorted ready-made objects. It is titled You are a flower and in winter I miss U. The piece is composed of five box structures in red steel, which were purpose-built for the room and fill it to such an extent that its sheer size, its massiveness is the first thing viewers notice, followed by the contrasts between the soft pop title and the heavy hard material.


As I walk around this work I glimpse a graphic simplicity and the perspective in the repetitions of the X shapes, as well as the many equidistant lines in both steel and LED fixtures. Then slowly the piece reveals itself to me with its many exceptions. It is as if this piece lays down a strict set of rules, which it then goes out of its way to overstep. The work resembles scaffolding that forms a makeshift stage for little compositions in various materials. Here regularity meets irregularity and mechanical shapes encompass organic material as the lasting meets the fleeting. The piece in itself is very concrete and architectural, while the title and individual objects point to an airy, poetic and surrealist path with irregular compositions reminiscent of natures mortes from the baroque period, which nonetheless retain a contemporary air with for example energy drinks and soda bottles. Reference perhaps both to bodily shelf-life and childhood past. The work seems modern with material references to the 1980s. What springs to mind includes the sensuous and bold yet delicate photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe of white lilies; the ground-breaking and candid Marquis de Sade album by Anne Linnet; and the 1981 poem The Night Machine (Natmaskinen) by Michael Strunge, which incorporates flashing neon lights, existential angst and the new romantic urban outlook of the 1980s generation.


Given that Jóhan Martin Christiansen’s work is as monumental as it is with repetitions and interruptions, the viewer easily reads dynamic events into the work as if it were a story-producing machine. Perhaps this piece is simultaneously a melancholy epitaph to childhood and youth and a celebration of the vital force itself, the progressive motion that transports mankind from birth to death.


Jóhan Martin Christiansen has previously worked with statues and installations and the same material, but now these have been gathered into a monumental magnum opus, which points both forward and backward in the artist’s collected works.