About Sara's Art
There is a Spanish word called “querencia”. It is a metaphysical concept that comes from the word to love or to desire (querer) and is used for the spot in the bullring to which the bull always returns. However, in Spanish it is more than that and is perhaps more singularly defined as a yearning for a place where one is safe yet knowing that it doesn’t exist.
Sara Johansson’s work captures this otherwise untranslatable Spanish word.
I am honored to be able to write about Sara Johansson’s work after having known her as a fellow artist and friend for over three decades. The opportunity to revisit her images while working on this text has been a gift to me. I have felt her being still vibrating in the physical manifestations of her brilliant mind.
It’s not enough to call Sara Johansson’s work poetic or mystical. To say that her paintings are visionary would be too limited for an artist whose work was about creating not just places but worlds.
Sara’s images have the power to transport you into a world that offers a sensuality of experience that is unique. Her colors, forms and spaces do nothing less than levitate the viewer into another dimension; a dimension that perhaps sci fi movies and literature strive to create. But which Sara, without ever compromising a truly painterly understanding of surface and form, renders in oil and coal.
Many of her paintings and drawings feature openings reminiscent of doors or windows, leading into an unknown and spectral beyond. Architectural elements are often present: floors, stairs, quays and dimly outlined buildings on the far horizon, creating a sense of distance and depth.
In works such as “Field Theory”, “Pool” and “Coordinates of Space” one feels as though she needed to burrow into the ground to find answers to the great “why”. The voids or openings in these paintings bear a relationship to the ground plane that as much compliment them as create psychological oppositions. Several of her works call attention to this compelling dialectical relationship.
In the painting “Observatory” spherical shapes are exiting or perhaps entering two of the three voids. This work has fascinated me, triggered my imagination. Here Sara Johansson suddenly fills her openings with sensual, circular forms. They are suggestive of some sort of primordial sludge, like something just coming into being. In her later blue works it is as though these primordial forms have evolved, become less amorphous and more architectural and monumental in shape and scale. They begin to feel like imaginary space stations, an architecture that is both human and archetypical. The masses are painted in blue tones that create an impression that they are looming, almost grief stricken.
What and where were these places deep in Sara’s mind that she shared with us?
With visual art there are often limits to the words one can use. One might employ words such as moody, translucent, sensual, sad and haunting for Sara’s works. I also think that the word evocative could be employed. But what do these images evoke?
I wonder and I marvel at how clear Sara’s vision was. The indentations and openings that she created in fields and surfaces are abysses that draw you in. Heaving forms emerge out of the canvas like primeval boulders at the edge of the world. Yet, her images don’t feel frightening; she always made space for you to breathe and to enter the work.
Sara’s work is querencia. I can’t help but think that she understood this term innately as she reconstructed and deconstructed the picture plane with her looming forms and magnificent colors. In her last works, among them “Anatomy of Place” and “Tenebrae” which contain both voids and monumental forms, all is integrated. It is as if she found her querencia. I am at once in awe of and transported by her visions. The viewers of her work will share this feeling I am sure.
Brooklyn, NY, April 2015