Sarah Anne Johnson Woodland

May 6–Jun 24
Stephen Bulger Gallery ⁠ accessible_forward
    Sarah Anne Johnson, CPIP3, 2021 (unique pigment print with hand-applied acrylic paint). Courtesy of the artist, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York. ©Sarah Anne Johnson

For the past twenty years, Winnipeg-based artist Sarah Anne Johnson has devised various methodologies for grappling with the limitations of static photography. Woodland extends this practice to the forests of Manitoba in photographs incorporating oil paint, holographic stickers, and dyes applied to their surfaces. By manipulating her photographs with material interventions, Johnson creates artworks that amplify the sublime and metaphysical qualities of the natural world.

Stephen Bulger Gallery’s 2019 exhibition of Johnson’s work, titled This Land, caught the artist at the tail end of the series Rosy Fingered Dawn (2018) and at the beginning of Woodland (2020). In the former, Johnson depicts national parks in a state of crisis, threatened by humankind’s use and abuse of the featured landscapes. While taking a pause from focusing on the magnitude of that calamity, Johnson went camping in a wooded area in her native Manitoba and returned to her studio intent on making more celebratory and calming work. Perpetually frustrated with how photographs only seem capable of recording what is in front of the camera, Johnson once again set out to create a more “honest image,” intent on depicting “not just what I saw, but how I [felt] about what I saw.” Johnson continued down this path during the pandemic, keen to offer audiences a respite from its chaos.

In the exhibition Woodland, Johnson further interrogates the truthfulness of the image through her depictions of nature in the forests of Manitoba near Winnipeg. Informed by Indigenous knowledge and understanding of the land, the sacred quality of trees, and modern scientific research that understands plants as social creatures capable of communicating with one another, Johnson’s interventions embody the multifaceted, interdimensional experience of the living, breathing, natural world. The artist reaches beyond what is seen in nature to depict and interpret what is felt by humans, plants, and woodland creatures. Throughout this work, Johnson effectively reorients conventionally anthropocentric perceptions and representations of landscape and nature with the ample use of geometric shapes and prismatic colour.

Presented by Stephen Bulger Gallery

Sarah Anne Johnson (b. 1976) lives and works in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is a photo-based artist who uses a variety of media in realizing her work. Johnson studied Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba and completed her Graduate studies at the Yale School of Art in 2004. Johnson has been the recipient of many awards and grants, has participated in several residencies, and has received a number of commissions. Her work can be found in numerous private and corporate collections across North America.