Simen Johan - Untitled #133, 2005 - Copyright Simen Johan

Simen Johan/ Simen Johan

Norway 1973

Sculpture, Photography

www.simenjohan.com

Simen Johan
Simen Johan
Male
Norway
1973

Using the computer tools to increase and distort his images, Simen Johan creates digitally manipulated photographs depicting the world of nature on a distinctive surreal way. Having more freedom to be imaginative in his creation, he describes computer processing as an essential part of his practice. Taking photographs from different locations across the world, although familiar, his representations look more like the otherworldly animal kingdom. His technique includes incorporated elements from original photos in combination with manipulated, often contradictory surroundings. As a result, these images erase the boundaries between natural and artificial, reflecting contradictions characteristic of human nature.

Simen Johan - Untitled #175, 2013 gallery milo yossi
Simen Johan – Untitled #175, 2013

Life and early work

Johan was born in 1973, in the north of Norway and after six years his family moved to Hollviken in Sweden. After he finished the film school at Lugnetskolan in Falun, he moved to New York and continued the studies at School of Visual Arts. During the 90’s, his experiments with digital manipulation in a combination with traditional darkroom techniques stood out in a time when photo processing was in its infancy. His first works combine different faces with bodies creating assembled scenes. Printing inverted files onto transparent film, he made negatives that have enabled him to create sepia-toned silver gelatin prints in the darkroom.

He experimented with digital manipulation in a combination with traditional darkroom techniques

Simen Johan - Untitled #168, 2011 kingdom series work comes gallery milo yossi
Simen Johan – Untitled #168, 2011

Creating Work of Fictional Reality

Starting from 2000, he turned to large format color prints. His focus also changed toward the natural world and sculpture. The photographs in his series Until the Kingdom Comes represents familiar but, at the same time, unreal and mystical world of animals we get used to, incorporated in fictional surroundings. These creatures are at nearly life size which emphasizes the sense of veneration and admiration to the miracle of existence. Aiming to mix the opposing things, as real and imaginative, his scenes merges sweet animals from children literature and dark and inauspicious details that announce the apocalyptic end. His animals mimic human emotions, like smiling owls, but it should not be understood as personification, but as a part of universal characteristic that encompasses all living creatures.

Simen Johan - Untitled #159, 2010 (painting) - Untitled #170, 2011 (sculpture), installation view kingdom series work comes gallery milo yossi
Simen Johan – Untitled #159, 2010 (painting) / Untitled #170, 2011 (sculpture), installation view

The Paradox of Existence

Johan’s work has been rewarded with the New York Foundation for the arts Fellowship in 2002, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2009 and the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Grant for Photography in 2012. One of his paintings was featured in Oliver Stone’s movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Exploring the power and impact that digital constructions have on a human psyche, the artist provokes the viewer to believe they are witnessing miraculous otherworldly scenes. The realistic depictions on his images confuse and emphasize the paradoxical nature of existence.

Featured image: Simen Johan – Untitled #133 (detail), 2005
All images copyright of the artist

Year Exhibition titleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Simen Johan Yossi Milo Gallery, New YorkSolo
2016Another North: Landscape Reimagined Scandinavia House, New YorkGroup
2015Simen Johan Olson Gallery, Bethel University, St. Paul, MNSolo
2015From Vision Machines to Instagram: Preus Museum Twenty Years Preus Museum, Horten, NorwayGroup
2015Director's Cut: Recent Photography Gifts to the NCMA North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NCGroup
2015100+: A Photograph For Every Year of the MIA Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2015Fra Synsmaskiner Til Instagram: Preus Museum 20 Ar Preus Museum, Karljohansvern, Horten, NorwayGroup
2015BeastlyTierisch, Fotomuseum Winterthur, SwitzerlandGroup
2015Tech 4 Chang, Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium, Ovre Eiker, NorwayGroup
2014New Mythologies: Supernatural States and Polar Exploration Fosdick-Nelson Gallery, Alfred University, Alfred, NYGroup
2014The Collector’s Eye: The Maloney Collection FotoFest 2014, Silver Street Studios, Houston, TXGroup
2013Simen Johan Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2012Simen Johan Until the Kingdom Comes, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University, ProvidenceSolo
2012Myths & Realities Visual Arts Gallery at the School of Visual Arts, New York, NYGroup
2012Unnatural Formations: Three Contemporary Photographers at Scandinavia House Nordic Center in America, New York, NYGroup
2012The Perfect Storm Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2011Simen Johan Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2011Simen Johan: Until the Kingdom Comes Pollock Gallery, Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TXSolo
2011Simen Johan: Until the Kingdom ComesFrist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TNSolo
2011Beautiful Vagabonds: Birds in Contemporary Photography Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2010Simen Johan: Until the Kingdom Comes 21c Museum, Louisville, KYSolo
2010Simen Johan Pollock Gallery, Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TXSolo
2010Dead or Alive: Nature Revisited Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NYGroup
2010Other as Animal Danese Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2009Until the Kingdom Comes Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2009Extended Family: Contemporary Connections Brooklyn Museum, New YorkGroup
2008Simen Johan: Evidence of Things Unseen Museum of New Art, Detroit, MISolo
2008Presumed Innocence Decordova Museum and Sculpture Park, MAGroup
2008Pubertet Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum, Tønsberg, NorwayGroup
2007All for Art Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, CanadaGroup
2007The Digital Portrait Clamp Art, New York, NYGroup
2007Lost in the Woods University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, AZGroup
2007New Acquisitions 21C Museum, Louisville, KYGroup
2007Photographic Culture, CONTACT Toronto Photography Festival Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, CanadaGroup
2006Until the Kingdom Comes Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2006Creepy Crawlies Ipswich Art Gallery, Ipswich, AustraliaGroup
2006Drawn, Exposed, & Impressed The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OHGroup
2006New to View: Recent Acquisitions in Photography Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MAGroup
2005Breeding Ground Stiftelsen 3, 14, Bergen, NorwaySolo
2005Simen Johan M. K. Ciurlionis National Art Museum, LithuaniaSolo
2005Acting Out: The Invented Melodrama in Contemporary Photography University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, IA and the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NYGroup
2005The Children’s House Museum of New Art, Detroit, MIGroup
2005In Focus: Contemporary Photography From the Allen G. Thomas Jr. Collection North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NCGroup
2004Breeding Ground Koch Gallery, San Francisco, CASolo
2004Simen Johan Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, NorwaySolo
2004Simen Johan Lumen Travo Gallery, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsSolo
2004Photography Reborn Kresge Gallery, Ramapo College, NJGroup
2004Changeling Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, AustraliaGroup
2004The Picture of Innocence: Children in Modern Photography Frist Center for the Visual Arts, NashvilleGroup
2004Dream weavers Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2004Beginning Here: 101 Ways Visual Arts Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2004Pool Party Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2004The Beauty of Darkness Reflex Gallery, AmsterdamGroup
2003Breeding Ground Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2003Simen Johan Hordaland Kunstsenter, Bergen, Norway and Rogaland Kunstsenter, Stavanger, NorwaySolo
2003Only Skin Deep International Center of Photography, New York, NYGroup
2003Ninos Centro de Arte de Salamanca, SpainGroup
2003Migration, A Barents Art Project Grenseland Museum, Kirkenes, Norway Group
2002Evidence of Things Unseen Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2002Role Play in Self-Portrait PhotographyZabriskie Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2002New Acquisitions Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2002Into the Woods Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2002Evidence of Things Unseen Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2002Situated Realities Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD and Minneapolis College of Art and Design, MNGroup
2001Room to Play Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2001Chelsea Rising Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LAGroup
2001In a New York State of Mind Embassy of Sweden, Washington, DCGroup
2001Go Fish Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, COGroup
2000And Nothing Was to Be TrustedBenham Studio Gallery, Seattle, WASolo
2000And Nothing Was to Be Trusted Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2000Don’t Follow Patterns Empire Bronze Foundry, Queens, NYGroup
2000Images in a Post-Photographic Age Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NYGroup
1999Simen Johan The Physics Room, Christchurch, New ZealandSolo
1999Recent Works Cortland Jessup Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1999The Artist as Patron The Alternative Museum, New York, NYGroup
1999Images in a Post-Photographic Age CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NYGroup
1999Artists of Our Times III The Alternative Museum, New York, NYGroup
1999Revolution in Technology: Past and Present Foreman Gallery, Hartwick College, Oneonta, NYGroup
1999Transcending Limits: Moving Beyond Mainstream Texas Fine Arts Association, Austin, TXGroup
1998Self Portraits Cortland Jessup Gallery, Provincetown, MASolo
1998Re-conceptualizations of a Vision Goldstrom Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1998Sixth Annual New York Digital Salon Visual Arts Museum, New York, NY Group
1998(R)evolution Bianca Pilat Contemporary Art Gallery and Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology, Milan, ItalyGroup
1997SVA Alumni Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1996Simen Johan Visual Arts Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1996Simen Johan Galleri Lava, Stockholm, SwedenSolo
1996The Art Market Gen Art, New York, NYGroup
1995Bit by Bit, Post-Photographic Imaging Hunter College Times Square Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1993Disposable Generation CB’s 313 Gallery, New York, NYGroup