Dorothée Nilsson Gallery, Berlin
Apparent Magnitude is the first solo exhibition of works by Swedish artist Johan Österholm at the Dorothée Nilsson Gallery. It brings together older and new works that look at the topic of light pollution from different perspectives. For many years the photographer Österholm has been working on the central yet least tangible element of his medium: light. His work combines astronomical observation and archival research, experimental photographic processes and, sometimes, political punchlines.
The three-part series Some Moon Walks (2017), for example, was created on the Isle of Sark in the English Channel. The island is considered a region with a natural, extremely dark night. On his nocturnal walks across the island, where the human eye can hardly see anything, Österholm’s camera was able to visualise the pale landscapes drawn by the clear moonlight on the island.
In recent works such as Concealer (2018), the perspective is reversed. It is not the essence of pure moonlight, but the dim light of urban street lamps that becomes the subject and artistic material.
The artist used it to examine old astronomical negatives from observatories, creating fascinatingly complex, black and white composite images. In Antique Skies and Untitled Lantern Pieces (both 2018) Österholm used a primitive method of early photography. For hours he exposed an astronomical yearbook and the glass pane of a street lamp with the negatives of those constellations that the light smog of the 20th century made invisible.
In Apparent Magnitude, however, Österholm also addresses the historical-political implications of his work on light more openly than before. Lantern Smashers (2018) interprets the streetlight as a political symbol of control. In the 19th century, newly erected lanterns were sometimes demonstratively destroyed. Österholm’s pictures, with tongue-in-cheek humour, interpret today’s vandalism or decay as a memory of those struggles for darkness in the city.
The works in Apparent Magnitude thus also reveal new aspects in Österholm’s work. In connection with the older projects, which will be on show at the same time in the exhibition Back to the Future at the C/O Berlin as part of the European Month of Photography, the broad spectrum of his work on the dark shades of light becomes evident.
Nýlistasafnið / The Living Art Museum, Reykjavík, 2016