Johannes Zits | Addressing Nature

Addressing Nature
Johannes Zits

July 4-August 3, 2013
Opening Reception: July 18,  7:00-9:30 pm
Performance by Johannes Zits, 8:00 pm
Art Crawl:  Friday, July 12

Addressing Nature features landscapes in which the human form and nature converge in an aesthetic and conceptual exploration of the materiality of nature’s surfaces – skin, earth and water.  As one traverses this exhibition at Hamilton Artists Inc., deepening compositions call attention to supremacy and emphasize support by a pictoral emphasis on the metaphoric balance of weights and measures.  For example, in Sand Action Peak the body functions as pedestal for pockets of sand, or as flotation device in the work Floating in A Pond.  In the cumulative video projection, Action with a Tree, one human figure balances on the back and rib cage of the other. In Curves on Logs 1 & 2, the position of the body references art historical female nudes reclining on tree trunks that double for the more traditional chaise lounge of Monet’s Olympia, and are joined in a composition reflecting Manet’s Dance.  The history of Colourfield painting is referenced in a work of the same title, where brilliant shades of green and yellow are delivered by nature and create a composition somewhere between representation and abstraction.  In this hybrid expanse, the artist’s limbs become simply another flower stem within the field of representation.  Archetypal references are present in Atlas, where Zits appears to support the weight of a rock formation with his back, and in Unicorn  where a horned branch emerges from his  head, recalling the mythical Nordic horse Sleipner, from which the English word “slippery” is derived. The slippage of a stable referent perfectly describes the moments of interplay in Zits’ work, where a kind of gentle destabilization and reordering occurs between figure and ground in the land within which Zits’ works thrive. 

Aspects of representation and abstraction come to the fore and are then submerged within these compositions which unfold and close like the plant life with which they long to merge. Zits’ body of work climbs from the entrance of the gallery counter clockwise to the final video installation. The ordering of these differently sized photographs into non-traditional groupings emphasizes the essential quality of the works as horizontal and vertical shapes/objects of various sizes, and recalls aspects of the compositional qualities of Modrian’s reductive configurations. 

‘Jumps’ occur at viewing level and in the carefully considered spaces between the works and the groupings of works. In the visual landscape of the exhibition as a whole, such blips recall the quality of pixelation of Zits’ earlier paintings and photography; these configurations relate to the artist’s intermedial use of video, digital photography, painting and performance art. The visual blips in the viewing landscape also recall the reduction of form to its essential element as shared by both animate and inanimate objects, humans, animals and plants – the atom, and in the world of video and contemporary photographic representation, the  pixel. The materiality of the digital image, its affect and the resulting flux between representation and abstraction finds the body twisting and conspiring to become a part of the whole, and indeed of all life, in the work of Johannes Zits.

Irene Loughlin


Johannes Zits‘ work spans thirty years of practice in Canada and abroad. He works across many disciplines with a focus on the body and the many meanings it engenders. His  work draws attention to conventional image-making processes as well as the ways images from mass media are disseminated and consumed. In his work with the natural environment Zits aims to extend the notion of the performer to include nature itself. Considering nature as a body and as an active participant ensures that it cannot be construed as a passive prop or backdrop; nor adored and fixed in the realm of the sublime.

Johannes Zits would like to thank Dong Su, Margaret Prosser, Ed Pien, and the late Agatha Schwager for assisting with the photography.

© 2020 Hamilton Artists Inc. All rights reserved.