The installation Mystery of Matter and Magic of Presence is born from the shimmer of a mother-of-pearl. It’s a deep shimmer that, like twilight, exists in between light and dark. The installation has been staged through an orchestration of flows and materials where the works express the material’s state as well as the ephemeral qualities around it; they describe how the metal melts in a precise and defining moment and how the rippling waves of aluminium slowly move and glitter. In her degree project, Miriam examines concepts based on a philosophical context in relation to a material-based practice. The undefined attribute of shimmer has been a key notion in exploring an in-between stage of displaced boundaries and fluid interfaces. Johannesson believes that borders mainly arise within us and that the world is vastly branched and intertwined beyond our comprehension. Light and shadows, movement and stillness together create animated reflections and dissolving surfaces. Reflections and surfaces that can act as portals to sensual experiences of materiality and time. In a world that is brightly lit and at full speed, perhaps these soft, slow and shimmering portals have the power to heal.
Current Obsession: What ideas or themes inspire your work?
Miriam Johannesson: Reflection, membrane, surface, and shimmer—all are notions that inspire my work, but in particular, the shimmer of mother of pearl. They serve as stepping stones to approach what is often seen as beyond description and therefore beyond language: the mystery, the serene, the holy, the indescribable, the immeasurable.
For the project Mystery of Matter and Magic of Presence, I have researched art historical sources, mainly within a Christian medieval and Byzantine context. I highly recommend reading scholars such as Beate Fricke, Patrick Crowley, and Bissera V. Pentcheva. Through their work, I have encountered material biographies and theories on language in relation to materiality, which have been deeply inspirational.
The elusive nature of shimmer has been a key concept in exploring an in-between stage that I have been searching for. As art historian Bissera V. Pentcheva concluded, the true essence of shimmer is a phenomenon that prompts the viewer to perceive the inanimate as animate. Light, shadows, and movement are equally important in this process. Through a play of transition, they breathe life into the work.
I believe these animating reflections and dissolving surfaces have the potential to offer sensual experiences of materiality and time. Ephemeral qualities such as light, shadow, water, and time often play dual roles in my work; they serve as both conceptual elements and materials. Even in a secular society, it may be possible to perceive, if not a divine, then an enchanted or sublime mystery reflected in matter.
In a broader sense, I view reconciliation as an overarching theme in my work. It resides in the softness of the metal, in the ephemeral shimmer, and in the opening that emerges from the darkness.
CO: How do you envision the future of the field you have chosen and your practice within it?
MJ: I am keen to further explore both the physical and emotional engagement with materials and techniques. I also aspire to continue investigating materiality, light, shadows, and time in relation to metals, especially within the realm of public art and temporary installations.
CO: Could you describe your approach, and how does it reflect tradition, current trends or push boundaries within the field?
MJ: By exploring the notion of shimmer and its undefined qualities, I have discovered that it can provide a counterbalance to the harsh, violent, and narcissistic aspects often associated with traditional material biographies, particularly in highly polished metals. The installation, Mystery of Matter and Magic of Presence, is built upon a dialogical approach involving the objects, the space, and the choreography of bodies within the composition/exhibition. The atmospheric quality of the space itself contributes to the discussion about materiality and its boundaries. The works are connected to the room and space through various attachment points, such as hooks, threads, and weights, evoking forces of gravity, balance, and ease.
To me, the works, both individually and as a group, serve as descriptions of conditions. They can be perceived as sections, membranes, or even poetic expressions that dance on the edge of language. The expanded understanding of materiality is a prevalent theme in many fields today, and it is intriguing for me to discuss the materiality of silence and language, which encompasses the act of creation itself. The twilight zone, existing in both light and darkness, movement and stillness within my work, goes beyond the mere presentation of finished pieces—it is a practice where presence becomes a tool. Through heightened attentiveness, I experience an elevated flow and presence when engaging with materials and techniques. Perhaps this lies at the core of knowledge interface, to balance between expectations and the actual outcomes in a liminal state of existence.
By translating a natural phenomenon into another material, for instance, representing a water surface on an aluminum sheet, I compel myself to truly observe and experience my surroundings. I believe many of us yearn for a sense of belonging, to deeply connect with our environment, and to become part of something greater than ourselves. None of us exist in isolation. Through engaging with the work’s animated and dissolving surfaces, I see them as portals into the mysteries of nature and existence.
SO MINT! is a series of posts on fresh graduates in fashion, jewellery and design from around the world. Handpicked by Current Obsession.
Follow Miriam on Instagram: @miriamjohannesson