US artist Simen Johan's exhibition of digitally manipulated photographs are designed to confound our sense of moral virtue, hovering somewhere in the murky space between right and wrong.
Using children and adolescents as the subject of his narrative portraits, Johan creates surreal tableaux of corrupted youth. A pubescent girl hula hoops against an idyllic seaside backdrop; an androgynous teenager cradles the head of a dead sheep on which flies are beginning to land; a young girl with glassy eyes takes a bite from a cookie, while in the kitchen scene behind her what appear to be petrified dogs are strung from the ceiling.
The poster perfect finish of these black and white prints belies their subject matter, which is replete with references to both the art historical tradition and Freudian sexuality. Johan has created in these photographs an uneasy world where abnormality and alienation are commonplace, and in the process asks that the viewer accept the beautiful with the difficult.
Showing of three
Christchurch star, 1999 Dec. 22, p. B5
Face to Face/The Minimalist Massacre Part II, by Sean Kerr; Gallery 5 by Maddie Leach; exhibiton by Simen Johan.