Johan Thurfjell is known for his lyrical and suggestive works that, in their reduced form, convey a strong narrative content, evoking sagas and fables, fears and fantasies. Regardless of his choice of material or technique Thurfjell’s sculptures, paintings, video works and installations show a dexterity and pleasure in his craftsmanship.
For his new exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake Thurfjell forgoes his previous use of mise-en-scène as a story-telling device. Instead he explores the role of sculpture as a cultural indicator in its earliest and most primitive iterations and examines the communicative potential of form-making as an essentially human endeavour.
Working primarily in papier-mâché and clay, in a palette of plain white and painted greyscale, Thurfjell carefully renders the most basic material from an elemental landscape - sticks and stones - to explore the point at which raw material becomes sculpture; when nature becomes culture.
The process of transition from nature to culture, indicated in the title of Levi-Strauss’s pioneering anthropological classic “The Raw and the Cooked,” is illustrated in the working of a branch to fuel, fuel to fire and fire to hearth, creating a symbol for not only warmth and food preparation but also community and by extension, society. Rendered here in marble-white, the campfire is accompanied by other signs of life: through a small intervention two sticks from the forest floor are arranged into an arrow to indicate direction; in Giant a group of rocks placed in a precarious pile become a cairn, while a standing bundle of sticks and branches bound together suggest a figure in Stick Man. With the simplest of means these first sculptures assume the communicative signs of human existence in an otherwise primordial landscape.
Johan Thurfjell, born 1970, lives and works outside Stockholm. He has produced some notable site-specific works, most recently for The Jewish Museum c/o The German Church in Stockholm (2017), connected to the work Navigators exhibited at Espace Mira, Porto and Galerie der Künstler, Munich (2015-2016) and I Come to You Naked, exhibited at Strängnäs Cathedral (2011). Solo exhibitions include Sweetest Thing, Uppsala Konstmuseum (2011), Dim Bearing, Eskilstuna Konstmuseum (2011), Jim's Room, Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art (2007), Färgfabriken in Stockholm (2004) and Index in Stockholm (2001). Group exhibitions include Personligt, Gotlands Konstmuseum (2016), If you tell a story you add more, Galerie der Künstler, Munich and Espace Espace Mira, Porto (2016, 2015), Suecia Contemporare, Uppsala Konstmuseum (2015), OSL Contemporary, Oslo (2013) and Thrice upon a time, Magasin 3, Stockholm (2010). Public commissions by Johan Thurfjell include Byggmästargruppen, Barkaby (2015), SiS Residential home for young people Råby, Lund, Poseidons gränd, Haning (2014), Danderyds Hospital, Ward 65 (2012), the walkway to Åregaraget in Vällingby (2008) and the main entrance to Münchenbryggeriet (2006), both in Stockholm.