Colorful, mesmerizing, and a little bit surreal describes the art of Martine Johanna. The Netherlands-based contemporary artist uses both painting and drawing as a way of exploring her experiences as a woman and as an adult. These expressive pieces capture her “inner life” by merging realistic portraiture with fantastical elements.
“The works are an autobiographical visual attempt at unraveling the psychic landscape of the developing woman caught in a moment of internal conflict,” Johanna tells My Modern Met. “It is a visual analog that explores the boundaries of our (patriarchal) society from a personal perspective, experience, and the resulting vision.”
Most of her pieces feature one or more young female figures in an abstract environment that reflects the mood of the characters. From afar, these striking prismatic paintings and graphite drawings appear to be very realistic portrayals, but when the viewer looks closer they are able to see the expressive application of color and line as well as the more whimsical details. While Johanna may render the clothing in a very naturalistic way, for example, she may also leave a figure's hands sans color or blend the pattern of the dress with the carpet. These subtle touches reinforce the idea that the pieces are capturing an inner experience.
“‘In the works, there is a constant battle between fiction and reality, a dialogue permeated from various points of view,” she continues. “Each work is infused with a mysterious narrative that holds a palpable knowledge that each character in the work has a complete and complex history—one that the viewer can never fully comprehend, but is still recognizable.”
Johanna's work is available through the KochxBos Gallery in Amsterdam, the Massey Klein Gallery in New York City, and The People's Print Shop. You can keep up to date with her latest paintings and exhibitions by following the artist on Instagram.