Yianni Johns’ paintings confront us with a seemingly placid contemporary world which has been quietly infected with a powerfully surreal disconnect. His amiable subjects return the viewers gaze with stares reminiscent of the blank looks of the hypnotised. They stand before backgrounds of sunny vistas or chilly corporate spaces, holding before them prized abstract, impossible objects. We do not know how to read these people and their enigmatic totems. Should we fear them, pity them or laugh at them?
The audacity of these works lies in their poker-faced cheeriness. Yianni has subverted a multitude of our cultural assumptions, primarily the manufactured responses we have to our visual creations. Nothing comes together to create cohesion here, and Yianni exposes how reliant we are upon narrative in our representational art. We are left without familiar references in these works so powerfully about anxiety and the lack of familiarising context. These works are chilling and powerful commentaries on our society and our psychologies.