Twenty years immersed in trance-like obsession, the work of Johan Tahon (1965, Belgium) has always bordered craft and invocation, hunger and higher-calling. Tahon has refined his life and environment into a crucible from which he summons works that carry all the powers of the beyond he seems to have access to. A thirst for understanding drives him to always return to his subconscious, an imperative to create a haven to retreat to and investigate what drives him, unobserved from others and himself. His sculptures stand emanating a deep gravity and vigorous materiality, at once both towering and tactile. Their surface is turbulent, drenched in hand-mixed glazes of celestial blues, ancient whites and more recently, silvers rendering the work both ethereal and aglow.
As they stand they bear all the traces of the hand, yet somehow vibrate with an uncanny sense of something greater, an ancient ambience. They instigate essential questions of the human condition, as if proposals to some kind of universality. Perhaps, this is due to their place of origin, the meditative state and transcendental space of a mind at work. This suspension of the conscious allowing for beings from other dimensions to will themselves into existence through him, carrying a message. These beings are punctured and frail yet formidable and kinetic. In stasis, they seem arrested at melting point, shadows of themselves passing through a world in which they don’t belong, to impart greater truths for as long as their vitality lasts.
Johan Tahon folds and pierces the translucent membranes of the subconscious mind, the empirical world and that or those who lie beyond our perception. These idols bear a timelessness, they are artefacts beyond time, the tesseract of a people that mean to communicate. The pervasive reach of the inspiration his works have imbued in others, such as Lee Ronaldo of Sonic youth, Belgian Poet Peter Velhelst and Til Lindemann of Rammstein illustrates just how close to some universal essence he has come. The human drive to create or seek greater meaning, living in the works as if an organism seeking to reproduce itself in others. This, echoed too in just how many collections, museums and private institutions his work has found a home in across the globe such as MOU (Oudenaarde, Belgium), SZU Fine Arts Museum (Shenzhen, China), Musée Ariana (Geneva, Switzerland) and the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands).
His practice expands notions of ‘artist in studio’. While at work, Tahon teeters between insatiable material curiosity and shamanistic ferocity. Similarly, notions of “audience” begin to wander somewhere closer to archaeologist and in some instances: congregation, though Tahon doesn’t claim any higher wisdom. Birthed from a period of dissociation, the works invite contemplation and reflection and often in their aura this can’t be resisted. In spite of their mass and density, the works represent an intensity of motion – of hypnotised choreography within his studio. They are aggregate ventures in trying to understand oneself, and in doing so discoveries of something about ourselves.
Text by: Matthew Sturt-Scobie