Lively squares, congested boulevards, crossroads or immense station concourses where millions of people cross paths, brush against one another and forget each other. Johann Perathoner’s cities invoke teeming swarms of men absorbed by their lives, ignoring their surroundings, dreaming of future and success.
New York, Paris, London, Dubai or Singapore are seen as sublimated stepping stones. Some people will stay, others will continue to wander, cherishing hopes of personal success in these huge “Babel” towns. Cities of every imaginable opportunity, where all is possible for those who dare to confront them.
His pictorial writing, precise and playful, simple pictures like mini-cities connecting to each other, is inherited from his teenage sketches. Johann Perathoner, influenced by the techniques of Charles Fazzino or James Rizzi, creates 3D Pop Art frescos which become animated under the light, playing with their depth and inviting us to explore every corner. But he leads the eye in much further and we are lost in a hypnotic and hallucinatory state by his use of many innovative techniques such as transparent, glossy, golden and glittered materials, mirror-effects of all kinds and specific textures such as green moss covering the walls of skyscrapers like the Trump Tower in New York, or plastic rods to float his balloons in the sky. Each work has required a significant amount of preparation time in order to orchestrate the 3D effects. The originality of Johann is probably to offer us naïve views of cities in which he integrates minute detail, where the infinitely large becomes infinitely small, reaching a paradox where immensity emerges from this to-ing and fro-ing. We lose all sense of scale in the profusion of detail. 800 to 1000 hours are necessary for the making of a single piece. The work of an architect, a surgeon.
The depth of these paper bas-reliefs draws the eye in, inviting it to venture along the rich Zaituna Bay, browse the quiet banks of the Seine, explore the magnificent Marina of Singapore, reel before the towers of New York, or marvel at the shimmering vastness of Khalifa Burj, Dubai.
The artist makes us sense the atmosphere of the greatest cities, their bubbliness, their quirks, the anonymous crowds that flock there, never drawn - always suggested. We enjoy lingering to contemplate his cities with the same pleasure we would have before a splendid view.
Depending on the light, sequins and rhinestones light up as one moves around the work, bringing the cities alive.
Johann Perathoner captures the essence of these capitals, by day and by night, just like Duchamp bottled the air of Paris. But here the air becomes palpable and one can travel standstill from one picture to another, guided only by the artist’s voice.
Watch 5th Avenue run from Central Park along the animated buildings of New York: an apple so juicy and a hive so bright that it attracts all the night moths. Or admire Dubai, the new Babylon, whose excesses and arrogant heights could soon attract the divine wrath.
Are these urban meanders a criticism of a society made of bling-bling and glitter? A society where trouble lurks around every corner, dotted with inhuman buildings. In the shadow of their overwhelming magnitude, these floodlit giants make us look like minute ants.
Or, on the contrary, are we in dream cities, straight out of the rich fantasy world of Johann Perathoner? Cities where abandonment and wonder allow a pictorial narrative to emerge, making one forget all references to specific forms too close to reality. Leaping from one scene to another with disconcerting ease, we follow the artist in this malicious maze. These “Windows on the City” are idealized visions of our urbanity, an opulent décor for our dreams in which losing oneself is a delicious luxury.