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Artist Statement – Eirik Johnson
PINE, is a photographic and music-based project that explores how the transgressive act of tree carving can conjure up sentiments of love, alienation, or even the most basic desire to declare, “I was here. See for yourself”. It’s a gesture, both tender and violent, intimate and with deliberate purpose. The photographs connect with that point in one’s youth when you are full of raw emotion and obsession and want nothing more than to escape into the woods down by the river to remember the name of a teen-age flame or the lyrics from a favorite song.
The photographs record my own performative response to these markings and the sentiments they hold. By slowly illuminating the carvings during long exposures at night using fire, moonlight, sparklers, and prismatic light, they begin to allude to dark aquatic ruins, a graffiti strewn dance hall, or the pigment drawings on a prehistoric cave wall. The tree transforms, taking on the appearance of a lunar surface or the skin of an elephant. The ultimate photographs are a collaboration between those who made the carving and my own engagement with it.
There’s a deep connection to music that runs throughout this project. Some carvings commemorate favorite musicians (“The Smith’s” or “I Miss Kurt”) or lyrics (“The Wild Wolves Around You” from a song by Bon Iver). Other images (“SAVE” or “We Were Here”) allude to potential songs or lyrics. During the making of this project, I kept returning to memories of favorite mix tapes from my youth and the emotional connections they still hold. It’s in that spirit that I asked seven different musicians/bands to compose original songs inspired by either specific photographs or from the project’s atmosphere more broadly.
An artist monograph, PINE, will be published in Fall 2018 by Minor Matters Books with a companion vinyl record pressed by Cascade Records featuring these new songs. Upon release, signed copies of the book will be available at G. Gibson Gallery.
A short film about the project and my process can be found here.