Like the goddess of daybreak in Homer’s Odyssey, Sarah Anne Johnson’s new landscapes recur with beauty and wonder, in a multitude of guises. In her eighth solo show at this gallery, she is taking a more general approach, not limiting herself to a specific place or distinct history. She’s focusing on photographic tropes- landscape scenes from a variety of places that depict sublime natural beauty. But as always, the artist is concerned with the loop between photographic object and “reality.” She poses serious questions, and answers with seductive playfulness. Once again she is trying to bridge that space through the psychology of place, and the dividing line between what is real and what is felt- a quality that remains a balancing act in all of her projects.
Johnson has added materials that undermine the seriousness of these scenes, and with humor she mocks our traditional sense of beauty and high art. Relief elements such as cotton balls artificial flowers and heavily applied epoxy, holographic tape, the use of photoshop and spray paint, all of these interventions gently push us to question our complicated relationship to nature and photography. How are photographs connected to reality, and how is that connection changing? How can we idealize nature with the knowledge of our globally threatened environment?
Instead of trying to harmoniously fuse the real and ideal, she plays with their parallel lives by forcing together contradictions- high and low, two and three D, sincerity and mockery. She provokes delight and suspicion. The emotional push and pull implicates the viewer in contrast to the distance of cool criticality.
Sarah Anne Johnson is known as a photo-based artist working also in video, sculpture and performance. A Yale MFA graduate, she has been exhibited and collected widely, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, Maison Rouge, Paris, and the National Gallery of Canada. She lives and works in Winnipeg.