Until the Kingdom Comes

Until the Kingdom Comes at Yossi Milo Gallery was a series of large photographs of animals by Simen Johan. Diorama in scale, they have great moral force in addition to their naturalistic description.

Johan photographs animals in zoos, farms and museums using a film camera then combines the images digitally.  Each one may comprise many photographed elements including landscape. Because of the huge scale of the resulting print, great skill is involved and he manages perhaps only five images each year. He also makes elaborate sculptures along similar lines.

What impressed me most was their extreme gravity, an ambitious, biblical tone such as in the amazing Untitled #100  which shows sinister writhing snakes in the shadow of a ravine. Birds fly freely up in the light, but a snake has caught one in its mouth and the terrified bird is desperately fluttering to escape. It is a manichean image, an illustration of good and evil reminiscent of those didactic Academy paintings of the 19th century.

The facing image in the gallery, Untitled #153, is a profoundly sad picture of a bufallo or bison, lying on the ground amidst garbage, its skin moulting, a mighty, defeated beast, seemingly the last of his species.

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