Under Dark Skies – Johan Österholm

Under Dark Skies – Johan Österholm

Opening September 30 at 18-24, during Malmö Gallery Night 2017
Artist talk with Johan Österholm October 12, at 18
The exhibition is open October 1 – 29, 2017

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Four hundred years ago, everyone in Florence could see the stars, but only Galileo had a telescope. Now anyone can have access to a telescope but almost no one can see the stars. Light pollution is the reason why the great majority of us here on Earth live under night skies where we the number of stars can be added up to a mere few dozen, whereas an otherwise clear night would open up to thousands upon thousands of stars visible to the naked eye. The shadow that the Earth rotates into each night is steadily getting lighter across the world, to the point that UNESCO has declared that it’s an inalienable right of human kind to have access to an unpolluted night sky that allows the enjoyment and contemplation of the firmament.

In his photographic work Johan Österholm turns his gaze upwards. His artistic practice has for the past few years focused on the light emitted or reflected of celestial objects – in the glow of the moon or the specks of light with a faraway source he seeks matter of a different nature and other associations than daylight. Navigating by starlight, much like sailors of earlier eras, Österholm uses the night sky as an artistic compass that point him away from the haze of light emitted from our cities toward increasingly darker places.

In January 2011 the small Isle of Sark in the Channel Island was designated the world’s first International Dark Sky Island. The jagged cliffs of the isle rises sharply from the English Channel, evening out at a height of one hundred meters into green pastures lined by dark hedgerows. A small community of some 400 people of all ages live and work on the island that spans a mere five kilometers from one end to the other. With no cars or trucks, no streetlights and no illuminated billboards the islanders describe themselves as ”a world apart”. The community has for the past decade worked tirelessly in reducing its local light pollution, and nowadays when darkness sets Sark emits almost no light of its own. The dark ocean waves that batter the steep cliffs and also devour stray light that has escaped the neighbouring islands of Guernsey and Jersey as well as mainland France.

On a stormy winter day in early 2017 Österholm arrived to Sark to spend the period from new moon to full. He spent his days walking the many scenic paths and trails of the isle, foraging its shores and gathering glass from an abandoned house wrecked by past storms. As night set he adjusted his eyes to the dark and ventured out across a familiar yet transformed landscape lit only by the night sky.

Johan Österholm received his MFA from Malmö Art Academy in 2016. Previous and upcoming exhibition include: Back to the Future, FOAM, Amsterdam & C/O Berlin, The Primal Shelter is The Site For Primal Fears, The Living Art Museum, Reykjavík, Screens and Mirrors, Borås Konstmuseum, LA CAMERA: On the materiality of photography, Palazzo De’ Toschi, Bologna och Peculiar Motions at Dusk, KHM Gallery, Malmö.

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With thanks to Anna Kockum Travel Grant from Malmö Art Museum.