Collection of the artist, Melbourne

Medium
Image rights
© Helen Johnson, courtesy of Chateau Shatto, Los Angeles Photo: Elon Schoenholz

As a painter, Helen Johnson has worked for many years at a large scale depicting life-sized figures, often on unstretched canvas. Working life-sized produces what she thinks of as a social relation between the viewer and the represented figure, beyond a strictly aesthetic experience. Johnson's work draws upon both personal, immediate experience and broader observations, socio-cultural and historical. An ongoing interest is the construction of national identity in Australia and the ways in which contemporary Australian society relates to the legacies and continuities of colonisation.

The surfaces of her paintings are developed by masking and layering content in such a way that images existing on different registers cut through and interweave with one another. This produces a visual experience wherein information emerges from the painted surface in a slow and entangled manner. This can serve as an allusion to the complexity of how meaning and history are constructed. An ambiguity emerges from the relationships between layers of imagery, a means to resist the desire to select and square off neat narratives as though they are whole. An economy of images is established within and between paintings; some imagery is given precedence, some is made barely legible. Humour plays an important role in Johnson's work, as a means to draw people into a reflection on the content of the paintings, particularly if they are addressing subjects such as the failings of a colonising society caught between trying to process, and trying to avoid processing its histories.

Established
Represented by industry leading galleries.
Selected exhibitions
2018
Warm TiesArtspace
2017
Warm TiesInstitute of Contemporary Arts
2015
Pleasure & RealityNational Gallery of Victoria
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Watching a romcom after yoga, 2015

Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, leather
120 1/10 × 72 in
305 × 183 cm
Location
Melbourne

Collection of the artist, Melbourne

Medium
Image rights
© Helen Johnson, courtesy of Chateau Shatto, Los Angeles Photo: Elon Schoenholz

As a painter, Helen Johnson has worked for many years at a large scale depicting life-sized figures, often on unstretched canvas. Working life-sized produces what she thinks of as a social relation between the viewer and the represented figure, beyond a strictly aesthetic experience. Johnson's work draws upon both personal, immediate experience and broader observations, socio-cultural and historical. An ongoing interest is the construction of national identity in Australia and the ways in which contemporary Australian society relates to the legacies and continuities of colonisation.

The surfaces of her paintings are developed by masking and layering content in such a way that images existing on different registers cut through and interweave with one another. This produces a visual experience wherein information emerges from the painted surface in a slow and entangled manner. This can serve as an allusion to the complexity of how meaning and history are constructed. An ambiguity emerges from the relationships between layers of imagery, a means to resist the desire to select and square off neat narratives as though they are whole. An economy of images is established within and between paintings; some imagery is given precedence, some is made barely legible. Humour plays an important role in Johnson's work, as a means to draw people into a reflection on the content of the paintings, particularly if they are addressing subjects such as the failings of a colonising society caught between trying to process, and trying to avoid processing its histories.

Established
Represented by industry leading galleries.
Selected exhibitions (3)
Other works from Pleasure & Reality
Other works by Helen Johnson
Related works
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