Erik Johansson’s visual games with the viewer were triggered when he was growing up in the small Swedish town called Götene. As a little boy, he often went to the children’s library, particularly fascinated by illustrated books. Instead of simply reading the books, he liked to look at the images and make up stories of his own to accompany them. The artist claims that later this would be the same way he would think about making his own ‘realistic photosurrealism’ art.
“I try to create images where I don’t need to tell the story, but the image itself will tell it and the interpretations can be as many as the viewers. The only clue to what I would like to say with an image is its title,” says Erik.
According to the artist, in creating his multilayered images he has always been more inspired by painters than photographers. The original photographs are his colours, and the computer his canvas. Erik’s biggest inspirations are surreal painters of the 20th century: Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher.
Another important source of creative inspiration is nature. Growing up on a farm, Erik spent a lot of time outdoors exploring his natural surroundings. Nowadays he travels all around the world, but keeps coming back for inspiration and the vivid images of Scandinavian nature and especially the landscapes of his native Sweden.
For Erik Johansson, the work on each new project starts with an idea. He always creates a simple sketch and then starts looking for locations to shoot. He never uses stock photographs for his images. “I want to be in total control of the creations I make. Light and perspective are crucial parts of that and that’s why I prefer to shoot everything myself. It’s also satisfying knowing that every single piece in each image has been captured specifically for this project,” tells Erik of his working method.
Sometimes most of the source images can be captured in one take, but more often a project requires a lot of different images from different locations. For example, “The Architect” contained somewhere around 250 different layers!
Scouting for shooting locations is never easy. As Erik told the Erarta team, he is currently working on a project with a woman picking down stars from the sky. He started looking for a location for this image as early as last year, but still hasn’t found the perfect spot. With the ‘star season’ now over, it looks like the project will have to wait at least until next year.
The last step of the creative process, once dozens or hundreds of the sources images are ready, is the post-production using image editing software. This is where the pieces of the puzzle come together. As Erik himself puts it, although the work of putting everything together is very important, the image will not become better than the material he has to work with and the material will not become better than what he is able to shoot. So in the end it all comes down to the planning and that is why each image can take so long to create. Usually Erik Johansson manages to complete 6 to 8 new projects every year.
Erarta Museum will showcase the most acclaimed works by Erik Johansson created over the recent years.