Fantastical Scenes – The Digital Art of Erik Johansson

All our civilization is built on the back of nature and natural processes.

This is the thought that came to mind when I saw the above image by photographer and digital artist Erik Johansson.  Johansson describes himself rather modestly: “I’m a photographer and retouch artist from Sweden. I use photography as a way of collecting material to realize the ideas in my mind.” Yet the personal work that he produces is visually arresting and can be thought provoking.

The arrival of digital imaging and the opportunities for digital manipulation have opened up the opportunity for photographers and to break out of the cage of realistic reproduction of the visible, allowing them to create digital art that both uses and captures the imagination. To an extent, such images created out of photographs have a greater impact than do painted images because they can strongly juxtapose the seemingly real with the imagined.

Johansson is a master at this genre. It does not seem that he has an activist or political agenda with his work, yet it is thought provoking. The images above and below cannot help but be interpreted as depicting the ever-growing obliteration of natural spaces by human development.

Our ever-growing influence on everything around us also leads us to try to ‘manage’ everything we come in contact with. In the image below, a couple is humourously giving the tree a helping hand in shedding its Autumn leaves. It reminds me of the laughable label of ‘natural spaces’ given to national parks and other so called ‘wilderness areas’ – spaces highly managed by ecologists, conservationists and others – including the tourist industry. In the words of Kareiva et al, these spaces are “no less human constructions than Disneyland” are no different from a nature-based Disneyland – and valuable and wonderful as such. But by no stretch of the imagination can they be described as ‘natural’ in the sense of not manufactured by humans.

The continuing transformation from the rural to the industrial to the urban is shown in the powerfully dynamic image below. Besides showing this inevitable progression, this image also reminds us that there is no going back. We can only move forward. The question is how.

And that is, so often, how we end up. With more questions than answers.

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