Georges Bergès Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of Johan Wahlstrom’s works, “Distorted Happiness,” the artist’s first solo show with the gallery. Wahlstrom sees himself as a painter of truth, exploring the psychological and spiritual toll of some of the most pressing social, economic, and political issues in our society. The series of works in “Distorted Happiness” depict a series of strange and ghostly specters, but these deformed beings represent our collective fears and anxieties—or as one work is titled, they are You, Me, Us, We.
Wahlstrom draws inspiration from his previous career in music, reflected in the layered density of color and composition. There is a constant feeling of alienation in his paintings, which in tandem with his dark color palette connects to a long history of a gloomy and mysterious aesthetic from the Northern Hemisphere. Some compositions resemble deep, color infused grounds, others seem to show slinky ink signatures of famous figures unknown. In terms of style, Wahlstrom paints in the tradition of neo-expressionism, with nods to Jean Dubuffet, Jackson Pollock, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and he is adept of fitting information and news into these complex compositions.
Johan Wahlstrom was born in 1959 in Stockholm, Sweden, and is a fifth-generation artist. Though art was in his blood, his first creative direction was rock and roll, where he had a successful and long career as a keyboardist and singer, touring with Ian Hunter, Graham Parker, Mick Ronson and many Scandinavian artists. After 20 years, the rock and roll life caught up with him. Wahlstrom moved to a small village in France where he did nothing but paint for seven years, part of that time under the tutelage of Swedish artist, Lennart Nystrom. Wahlstrom’s dark narrative paintings of heads and torsos in acrylic and ink are inspired by cryptic, often ironic social critiques that he collects on scraps of paper in his studio. He currently lives and works between Malaga, Spain and New York City.