From a distance, these apocalyptic landscapes look like paintings. But they’re actually photographs with a complicated past: Each scene is carefully constructed out of materials like mold, blood, grease, or ashes. Swedish artist Hans Jörgen Johansen takes as much as three months to create each piece.
Why make art out of decay? “The material that I shoot has a symbolic and emotional value for me, but it also works well aesthetically,” Johansen says.
He sets up each scene on a two-by-two foot table, creating patterns out of things like wet flour and bread and waiting for mold to set in. “It can take from two weeks to a few months to make a picture,” he says. “After I design it, I take the photograph with a large format camera.” He never uses Photoshop.
Occasionally things get unusually gross, as with a landscape Johansen made from a bucket of old blood donated from a friend who hunts. But the result is always a carefully ordered image. In some of the artworks, Johansen plays with patterns from textiles, and even includes brand logos, like Louis Vuitton, repeated in the mold and dust.
He leaves it up to the viewer to decide what it all means. “It is inevitable that one sees an open landscape with a horizon in the middle of the picture,” Johansen says. “But what the pictures represent depends on the exhibition and the context they are in, then it’s up to the viewer to make an interpretation.”