Sarah Anne Johnson Field Trip
Works in the exhibition
Galerie Division is pleased to present Field Trip, a new exhibition by Winnipeg-based artist, Sarah Anne Johnson. The artist's second exhibition with the gallery coincides with Hospital Hallway, a solo exhibition held at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG).
Sarah Anne Johnson's retouched photographs uncover the sentient experiences her camera fails to capture. Scratching, cutting, painting and digitally retooling her images, Johnson evinces her presence behind the lens, shifting our focus from apparent scenes to her personal experience. These additive and reductive marks establish a second stratum of indexicality--additional imprints upon film. If a photograph's physical tie to the site it portrays has traditionally established a truth claim, then Johnson's manipulations undercut this supposed accuracy, exposing an essential failure by images to represent a definitive verity. Moving beyond the conventional objectivity of photography, Johnson turns inward, foregrounding a nuanced subjectivity through inventions that contain their own truth.
While Johnson's work defies photography's reliability, it does so by documentarian methods. Earlier series saw the artist travelling to the Arctic, uncloaking moments of rapture amid environmental decline, whereas in Tree Planting (2005) Johnson chronicled a laborious rite-of-passage for many young Canadians. Performing the role of anthropologist, Johnson produces photographs like data compiled from field work, her additive measures confusing boundaries between her position as observant and participant. For her latest series, Field Trip, presented for the first time at Galerie Division, the artist returns to the outdoor music festivals of her youth. Here, Johnson creates an archive of contemporary Dionysian revelry--collective rituals where societal constraints are lifted and replaced with intoxicated liberation.
Enveloped in a murky haze, saturated in gradients of glitter, and concealed behind polychromatic paint, the images in Field Trip conflate drug-induced elation with the clichéd aesthetics of psychedelia that abound at these festivals. Johnson's images describe the limits between felt experience and desired expectation as porous; both enmesh in order to approximate memory. The impermanence of experience mirrors the festival goers' futile quest for utopia; like the highs from which they will undoubtedly come down, utopia is transient, a projected non-place that can never be attained. Johnson offers us an alternative: virtual sites which oscillate between sublimity and reality, where spectacle seeps into lived experience.
Sarah Anne Johnson received her BFA from the University of Manitoba in 2002 and completed her MFA in Photography at the Yale School of Art in 2004. Her first exhibition, Tree Planting, was purchased by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Subsequent exhibitions were collected by the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. In 2014 she was the subject of a mid-career survey exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh in North Carolina. This year Sarah Anne Johnson was shortlisted for the prestigious Sobey Art Award.