(49) Johan Nobell (SE)

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“Unspoiled  Monsters”


Solo exhibition by Johan Nobell (SE)



October 31 – November 29, 2014

Opening reception: Friday, October 31, 5-7 PM


Palægade 5, 1261 Copenhagen K.

Phone: +45  2125 2325 &  + 45 2197 2525     

e-mail: bendixen@contemporary-art.dk

Tues – Friday:  12-17,
 Sat: 12 – 15



If I could do anything, I would go to the middle of our planet, Earth, and seek uranium, rubies, and gold. I´d look for Unspoiled Monsters. Then I´d move to the country.

Excerpt from Truman Capotes unfinished novel, Answered Prayers



The point of departure in Johan Nobell’s imaginary world often takes place in a desolated landscape. Above the burnt plains a sky rises which seems to be infused by alien, toxic substances. From these ruins and fragments of an unknown past, new life forms emerge: mutations, fusions, creations with no connections to the world we as we know it. Simultaneously, an activity proceeds in the outskirts, some sort of mining process, a process which perhaps further mutilates the landscape. Paradoxically, this plundering ennobles the Nobellian world. Under the sterile surface strange valuables await being brought up in to the light. Their value can be measured both in beauty and the price on the market – a market, which in itself perhaps is the well from which the destruction springs.

A question arises: Who are the Unspoiled Monsters who walk through Nobell’s flame-coloured deserts?  Are they guardians of the landscape or the victims of a nameless disaster? The monsters in Nobell’s new works are exposed, the artist has separated them from the setting; they are creatures who, portrayed in hasty snap-shots, mediate spleen, drollery and dread in equal measures. In their representation we meet one of the artist’s main influences: George Joseph Herriman’s strange, surrealistic comic-strip Krazy Kat, which was published mainly in New York Evening Journal between the years 1913-44. The landscape also plays a crucial role in Herriman’s artistic universe – a desert radiating of isolation and sheer beauty, where the only organic life is few, lonely cactuses. This desert is the scene where the drama takes place between the lovesick Krazy Kat and the object of his/her (Krazy Kat´s sex is a much discussed topic) desire, the mouse Ignatz who responds to Krazy Katz´ yearnings with a cannonade of bricks. These “monsters” – Ignatz and Krazy Kat – inhibit the same timbre of sorrow and slapstick as the characters in Nobell’s work. One can also trace influences in Nobell’s work to the American artist George Catlin (1796-1872). In 1832 Catlin travelled upstream the Missouri river and inventoried a world which was “new” to the European explorers, and at the same time slowly dying and disappearing. Catlin’s portraits of the Mandan Indians glow of a tragic undercurrent. The tribe was reduced from 1600 individuals to 125 by a horrible smallpox epidemic two years after Catlin’s visit. These “savages” and “noble monsters” who posed for Catlin’s portraits, had already vanished by the time the paintings reached the walls of the salons.

Nobell’s works are constructed of multiple layers of storytelling: art history, our contemporary society, the Big History: the story of ourselves…


Fredrik Ekman, author



Johan Nobell, born 1963 in Gotland, lives and works in Stockholm. Nobell is educated at Valand Academy in Gothenburg.

Previously, he has shown work at ANNAELLEGALLERY, Stockholm, Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn, USA, Stephane Simoens Contemporary Fine Art in Knokke, Belgium,  and Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Sweden.

Bendixen Contemporary Art have represented Nobell’s work since 2002.