On display

On display


Erik Johansson – Places Beyond


The internationally successful photographer Erik Johansson is on display for the first time in Finland. The Swedish artist’s solo exhibition Places Beyond is exhibited at Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art in Vaasa.

The artist Erik Johansson (b.1985) has succeeded in creating large photographic works containing visual impossibilities that mislead the viewer towards surrealism due to their unreality. He uses the camera and image processing software in a skillful manner to combine elements that confuse the viewer with his apparent realistic photographs. The perspective turns surprisingly upside down in the photographs that embody reality and imagination.

The name of the exhibition Places Beyond also describes its content. According to the artist, his photographs are:

“A tribute to places that influence us during our lives, as well as to self-created places that are beyond the apparent. Places can be physical that we can experience with our senses, and places that we carry within and that only we can access. They are stories about existent and non-existent worlds. They are descriptions of the real on the one hand and things deeply known to everyone on the other.”

As a photographic artist, Johansson’s artwork is based on technical competence and the ability to create optical tricks like endless stairs in the spirit of the Dutch M.C. Escher. His training includes, for example, interaction design. Johansson is also a computer engineer interested in technical and mathematical problem solving as well as the visuality related to illustration.

Johansson’s work process is multiphase and time-consuming. The artist builds physical models from cardboard, paper, flour or liquid, for example, to accompany his sketches and drawings. He then photographs the shapes and structures of the materials as part of his works. The artist’s photo collection includes hundreds of photographs of already existing landscapes, buildings, animals, and people. Using the montage technique, he combines different elements into a digitally finished image.

Born in Sweden in 1985, Johansson grew up on a farm in Västra Götaland County. Nature and its examination, as well as the Swedish landscape, appear repeatedly in his photographs. The Scandinavian landscape, even the rural idyll, recurs in the sunny and positive photographs. His works are also influenced by the fairy-tale worlds of Elsa Beskow and Sven Nordqvist, as well as the surrealism of Salvador Dalí and René Magritte.

According to Johansson, each of us is born into the world as a creative person, and in a child’s world, the imagination is reality. Magic and truth are not yet opposites. However, imagination must be practiced in the same way as other development related skills such as reading, counting, or muscle fitness.

In addition to his home country Sweden, the photographs of the internationally renowned Erik Johansson have been seen in various parts of the world, such as Australia, South Korea, Norway, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. However, this is his first exhibition in Finland. The extensive solo exhibition Places Beyond arrives in Vaasa from Fotografiska in Tallinn, where it was on display in 2020. Presently, Erik Johansson lives and works in Prague.

Photography as an important means of visual expression and communication is the common denominator of the two coordinated exhibitions. Johansson’s solo exhibition is designed together with the group exhibition 1868-2021-2068, which is simultaneously on display at the Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art, and which presents Finnish contemporary photographers. The concept of integrating the two exhibitions is handled by curator Anna Franck and head of exhibitions Maaria Salo.

Photo: ©Erik Johansson, Full moon service.


1868 – 2021 – 2068


Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art’s summer exhibition, 1868 I 2021 I 2068, brings forward wide social structures and problems that have deep effect on people’s lives in present as well as in the past and future. The series of years in the name of the exhibition symbolise this timeline.

The starting point of the exhibition takes us to the past, to 1860’s when Finland went through what’s known as the great hunger years. During this period, lack of food together with epidemics decimated the Finnish population of the time by an 8-10%, and hundreds of thousands took to the road in a desperate attempt to survive by begging.

In the 2020s, the whole world is being threatened by the covid-19 pandemic as well as climate change and other natural catastrophes caused by the activity of humans. Big oscillations in politics and economy, which seem too big and abstract to understand, increase the uncertainty, but still affect in a tangible way our daily lives. Worldwide, hunger is as real now as it was in 1860s.

The exhibition brings forth seven Finnish photographers, who document, investigate and tell stories about people and the world we have created. Many of the series have taken years to finish. They immerse themselves in their theme, calmly asking questions, listening and trying to understand. Apart from the past, their glance also turns towards the future, asking us where we actually think we are going.

Side by side with the photographs a selection of archive material from 1860s is presented. It draws its own harsh and declarative picture of the events more than 150 years ago. Statistics of deaths and epidemic victims, educating and practical recipes for substitute nutrition, and political and economic surveys of the autonomous state’s situation open a viewpoint to the everyday life of 1860s. Despite the temporal distance, this archive material may reveal surprisingly familiar ideas and phenomena, which are once again current and part of the lived reality of the present day.

In the exhibition future is sketched by Bita Razavi’s new document, which is produced for this exhibition.

The artists of the exhibition are Touko Hujanen, Paula Humberg, Jaakko Kahilaniemi, Joel Karppanen, Lasse Lecklin, Heidi Piiroinen and Bita Razavi. The exhibition is produced by Vaasa City Museums and curated by Anna Franck. The exhibition, focused on photography, has been born in interaction with the exhibition upstairs.

Photo: Joel Karppanen: Field (2016) from series Finnish Pastoral.