Tess Johnson’s collages draw you into dreamlike worlds of surprise, imagination and contradiction. In these worlds, disjointed limbs, flora, sprawling landscapes, household objects and galaxies come together to produce new and impossible modes of being. The ordinary sits side by side with the absurd; contrasting banalities of everyday life with the deep inner realms of psychic fantasy.
A theme that cuts through her portfolio is the pursuit of adventure- brightly dressed, all-American magazine models kayaking down rivers of flowers, winding down mountains and moon craters, exploring landscapes that are strangely disconnected from them. They are there; looking around, but they refuse to merge in perfectly. And it’s no wonder; they come from a different page of a different book printed far away in a publishing house of a different day and age. Like time travellers sucked through a portal, they find themselves in a world that is so distant from their own and yet the assemblage works wonderfully.
Then there is the numinous. Many of Tess’ collages embody a feeling that is hard to pinpoint with language. It’s the feeling of standing at the height of a canyon, looking down at thousands of years of erosion, and feeling really, really small. It’s the feeling of awe when you look into the face of true, overwhelming power, like seeing the sea for the first time. Or, like standing on the edge of a diving board and looking down at the milky way below you (image 1.3.). Images often prove to be more adept than words at communicating sensations that are fleeting and unusual: frailty, emptiness, wonder, fascination.
Despite their affective power, there is a fundamental lightheartedness to the images. They’re playful, they’re simple, they have a childlike naivitée to them. And we love them for it.
Tess Johnson is a Collage Artist/Designer/Explorer living and working in LA.
She sees the world through a multi-colored lens and draws her inspiration from nature, colors, shapes, light, layers and fashion. Besides collaging, she also does visual merchandising, painting, sewing, art directing, and textile design.
You can also purchase prints of her collages here.