Very few artists like Swedish artist Johan Thurfjell pull off works that are simultaneously personal, poetic and romantic without becoming kitschy or pathetic. Instead, the personal essence transforms (without loosing the “personal-ness”) to not only something that is general and universal, but also touches something deep inside the spectator and still avoids the stickiness. The work Reach Out and Touch Faith (2003) was first exhibited in a very small gallery space. One was faced with a desk stuffed with images and drawings picturing some sort of a structure – could be a bridge, a highway or some kind of utopian construction. The same sort of modelled structure made of wooden sticks seems to have grown from the desk itself. Fragile and thin towers emerge from the desk and climb towards the ceiling. The towers bridge two more towers that stand on the floor in front of the desk. At a closer look small stairs made for extremely small people, Lilliputians maybe, connects upwards inside the towers, and small lanterns have been placed for the wanderer not to get lost. Lambda prints with similar bridges/structures in darkened and misty landscapes on the walls add up to what could be imagined to be the working environment of a slightly mad scientist with a utopian mind and new ideas.
It is at the more fragile moments in life one has to “reach out and touch faith;” when something is lost or something is missing, after a failure or (sometimes even worse) after a major success and one has to somehow leave for the next level but don’t know how to.
What is to be found if one reaches out, just around the corner, above the clouds or beyond our wildest dreams and fantasies?
In Untitled (2004) at the Espresso bar in Moderna Museet, Stockholm, he transformed the cork board behind the counter, where usually the prices for coffee etc. are displayed, to what seems to be a personal message to a loved and lost one. The narrative tells us about someone desperately trying to forget and ove on, but seems unable to “just stop loving.” One can read another message intertwined in the text that is highlighted with another colour and is read from the top and down, instead of from the left to the right, and says something like this “I will always love you, and that is something I hold on to now that I am letting go [of you].”
Thurfjell, the storyteller, performs a balancing act on a tight rope when exposing some of his own fears and romantic ideas in his art. The narrative structures that crosses each other in intricate ways, and in innovative combinations, provides so much more than romanticism to his work though, and it is definitely easy to get lost when exploring it.