Through her artistic practice, Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck invites positivity into everyday life
Working across painting, drawing, installation, sculpture, film, photography and writing, Johanna sees her practice “as a garden”.
- Ruby Boddington
- 1 September 2020
Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck is a creative polymath in every sense. Born in Strasbourg, she now splits her time between London and rural Alsace, working across painting, drawing, installation, sculpture, film, photography and writing, with some form of interaction with the environment at the centre of her projects. She’s held several solo shows around the world, founded collaborative culture project Poetic Pastel in 2014 and in 2018, and the publication Journal du Thé was added to her corpus, in collaboration with T. S. Wendelstein and 75W Studio.
It’s a fascinating practice and one that’s hard to pin down but when asked about her multidisciplinary approach, Johanna reveals that painting is at the core. “I like to see my practice and projects as a garden,” she says, something that is inspired by her upbringing in the French countryside where she spent a lot of time with her grandparents who had a small family-run permaculture garden. “Alone, or with friends and family, we would draw, play ‘library,’ make small books, dance, go to the garden to pick vegetables and flowers, sing, read, clean, cook, invent garments and plays, look at insects, trees, and animals,” she recalls. “Add the internet to it, and in a way, it is exactly what I do today.”
While the media changes, feelings provide the guiding force for all of Johanna’s outputs. “They are a gentle driving force,” she tells us. Her works, in turn, are instinctive and personal, an extension of her ethos in life. “In my life and work it is primordial to do my best to be free from any form of cruelty, be it towards human, animal, or earth,” Johanna elaborates. “I seek for both my life and work to have a positive approach, and to encourage ways of incorporating this positivity into daily life as a result.”
This sensibility is also channelled through her aesthetics, which are soft and natural thanks to Johanna’s pastel colour palette. Each work is therefore imbued with a sense of calm as if taking on the very atmosphere of Johanna’s so-called garden. A serene interpretation of nature through painting, photography or illustration.
GalleryJohanna Tagada Hoffbeck: Safe Space
An ongoing body of work which is full of this tranquility is titled Safe Space. Through a series of paintings, Johanna interprets what a safe space is to her; “the embodiment of intimacy passed back and forth in meaningful conversation with a like-minded person.” This could be a whispered confession or a common concern, “it’s temporal and spatial; at once ephemeral and everlasting,” she describes. The series makes use of soft strokes and evocative colour palettes, depicting women conversing of tea, sharing “ideas and energy”. Safe Space is also a tribute of sorts to Johanna’s closest friends and collaborators, “preserving them in an instance of power and vulnerability.”
During lockdown, Johanna also collaborated with designer Alyssia Lou to create fleures.org, an online step-by-step guide on how to create a Johanna-style exhibition from where you are confined to. It features a list of required materials, instructions and an accompanying film, originally shot in Japan in 2015. This film is part of the series Épistolaire Imaginaire in which the artist invited visitors to four exhibitions across the world to share, in handmade notebooks, their memories of simple moments of happiness in written and drawn form. The film is then a recital of these memories, combined with Johanna’s too.
While the environment and our interactions with it form much of Johanna’s investigations, she is also concerned with discourse between cultures. It’s a fascination which stems from her own French Alsatian and North African ancestry. “This is one of the things that early on encouraged me to engage in and begin cross-cultural dialogues, as well as to learn new languages,” she says.
Like many of us, Johanna is currently embracing more time offline, and this has seen her becoming deeply involved with vegan vegetable and biodynamic farming. “I would like to share this further with my local communities in urban UK and likewise share artistic projects further with the communities of rural Alsace,” she tells us. Creatively, she’s continuing to flourish too, with a solo exhibition in Hiroshima still planned for November (although she won’t of course be attending), and a group exhibition at the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes which is due to re-open soon.
GalleryJohanna Tagada Hoffbeck
Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck: Safe Space. Installation of two pieces from the series. Oil paintings on canvas, audio recording and naturally dyed fabrics at Nidi Gallery (Tokyo, Japan). Photograph by Kenji Kagawa. (Copyright © Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck 2019)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.