There are a multitude of stories in my family around me and drawing. I believe that drawing is one of the earliest and most honest ways to express ourselves. When I studied and specialised in Print media/Serigraphy in the latter part of my studies, drawing stayed with me as my most productive testing ground. It’s always been the one medium that is stable and unstable at the same time, allows risk and gives comfort – all at once.
My art practice is informed by the way in which my life unfolds. I was born and raised in Germany and studied Fine Arts at The Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz/Germany. I was taught and influenced by the rigorous, solid, diverse yet critical art teaching practices of a variety of very interesting lecturers.
Moving to New Zealand in 1997 set me on a journey that was challenging yet exciting and unexpected in many ways. In 2017 I find myself a NEW Zealander with a migratory background, a settler finding ‘new ground’. Learning about a different physical, psychological and ‘foreign’ place continues to expand my curiosity in life. The space I call ‘in-between’ for me reflects the constant echo of who we are and one’s search for belonging – one’s definition of HOME and what it is that defines place. It’s an increasingly global, yet also a very personal/local framework of questions…
Drawing connects me with my emotional state, my conceptual thinking and that curious space where finding replaces the searching for something specific. It’s a process where I build on gained and intrinsic human knowledge and the method of just doing it leads to the new unknown territory that drawing facilitates so generously.
Living in New Zealand and becoming more and more a part of it has shifted my drawing practice over the years. I explore a form of personal navigation and mapping. There is an element of observation and recording wherever I go, essentially taking apart what is there and re-constructing and re-inventing to create (taking the line for a walk) a new psychological space - one in which the viewer can get lost in. My work reflects upon emptiness, memory, loss, coding and de-coding. Main ongoing work series have been: Parallel lines: Mapping another life; Lost lines, Place bandits; Atlas drawings and Inselzeichnungen.
I include fragments of poetry and writing like a formal, concrete poetry element (Inselzeichnungen and Atlas drawings) and I continue to explore three-dimensional /spatial ideas around drawing practice. In my recent works, there is often graphic, architectural lines alongside more searching, unstable and whimsical mark making (Parallel lines – Mapping another life).
The Parkin Prize is facilitating a very important platform to support New Zealand practitioners and to showcase the wide variety of positions in drawing. An award of this calibre and size is educating people about the medium of drawing which is priceless.
I have been a finalist in and recipient of several art awards, nationally and internationally. In 2006 I won the Anthony Harper Contemporary Art Award, I have been selected Artist in Residence in Scotland, France and more recently Switzerland. In 2007 I started working with New Zealand artist Victoria Edwards which led to a collaborative arts practice unique and rare in New Zealand. As Edwards+Johann we also test and push, explore the edges of drawing practice together. In 2016 we won the New Zealand Painting and Printmaking Award.