Experience describes what we do. The texture of experience describes how we feel. In Johan Lowie’s work, it is emotional texture above all that spurs expression.
Lowie’s decades of creative work evoke deep, unsettled feelings that come from the frisson of life experiences churning directly against interior wheels of emotion. His images present experience and observation transformed by contemplation. Where a superficial review of his work might determine it to be purely surreal, longer exposure suggests deeply emotional, honest explorations about how we remember our own feelings as we accumulate experience through life.
Take Lowie’s landscapes. He often paints the environment around his home in Fredrick County, Maryland, but almost never works from photographs. Rather than composing abstractions based on what he sees, Lowie instead explores a sense of emotional memory that the landscape evokes. What emerges become explorations not only of the emotional texture prompted by location, but also the emotional context for Lowie himself, as he inevitably invests his interior life into the externalized effort of his work.
Lowie explores diverse subjects in his work beyond landscapes, too. From carefully considered interior spaces to abstracted figure studies to moody street scenes, Lowie’s work returns repeatedly to the intangible, yet deeply emotive spaces that shape human feelings and memory.
In a theatrical sense, drama demands that contrasting elements be in direct contact. Lowie’s paintings present inherently dramatic themes, with bold colors and often primitive geometric shapes sometimes placed in context with more literal images, like a person sitting a chair or a simple piece of furniture. More often, however, color and shape describe their own vocabulary. Figurative evocations generally take a secondary role to purely emotional expressions. Where inspiration may arrive from challenging life experiences like loss, isolation, and pursuit of purpose in life, the tangible aspects of his work speak with strong colors, defined shapes, and confident juxtapositions.
Lowie’s work challenges viewers, but that challenge gives as much as it takes. Where viewers may first encounter assertive designs and compelling compositions, they soon find themselves forced to reckon with their own relationship to the images. Lowie asks viewers not simply to consume his images, but to digest them, integrate them, and ask themselves why they feel the way they do. In an era saturated with invented, inventive images, that provocative moment of introspection may be the most elusive filter.