by Paul Zimmerman

Looking at Hans Johansson’s luminous paintings exhibited recently at Artifact, an attempt to “read” them for their near associational messages is time well spent. And yet it would be far more pleasurable and satisfying to see each work as a living entity outside of the realm of guessing games. The heartfelt ambiguity which is at the core of each work is part of the conceptual attitude that infuses the artist’s overall project. Here the known and the unknown co-exists as does the unseen with the seen, the visible and the invisible, the discernible with the evanescent.

The tension that is felt between color and form is a driving force in Hans Johansson’s works, but this charge of energy is always applied with nuance as well as directness. The artist is particularly sensitive to the application of masses of hue and tone. Overall, we see his characteristic use of color and texture inserted with assertiveness and energy to exude the maximal amount of vibrancy and presence. This over-ridding quotient of vitality stems from Hans Johansson’s authoritative capacity to infuse each painterly effort with a breakdown of figure-ground relationships.

Yes, there might be figural element in his works, but total dissolution is kept masterfully at bay, and purposefully so. In some of his more purely abstract paintings the artist seems to be indwelling within a ludic domain which suffuses the beholder. There is a process of luring the viewer into an associational game within these aesthetic efforts, of attempting to lead the viewer into identifying certain near-representational elements within the frame. We are invited to suspend disbelief and to become involved at the impact that each work has on the eye of the viewer.

Paul Zimmerman is an art writer living and working in Manhattan