The women that populate Martine Johanna‘s world are pensive warriors who occupy a place of tension between powerful command and fragile insecurity; and between upstanding morality and dark cruelty. In many ways, the figural subjects of Johanna’s paintings conflate the complex binaries between which people throughout their lifetimes, battle and waver, settle and compromise. While each subject is shown as unique in appearance and mood, they are all united by a distant, thoughtful gaze − a metaphor for the wandering, worrying human mind.
The Netherlandish artist paints in a traditional style infused with abstract elements that give her female characters a quality of uneasiness. Johanna uses unearthly and unnatural colors to illuminate her subjects from the inside, creating an aura that radiates outward from gleaning bare skin. As a former fashion designer, Johanna has intimate and expert knowledge of how clothes cling onto and fall from the female form. She also understands a seemingly innocuous choice of dress intrinsically shapes a woman’s identity. Though the paintings are surreal and at times alien, the garments with which Johanna chooses to clothe her women ground them to the present day, thus tying them directly to the viewer and his or her world.