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Art Life , Exhibitions May 09, 2014 No Comments

From Sharne Wolff

 Michael Johnson’s artistic career kicked off in 1950s Sydney where he hung around local art schools with friends Brett Whiteley, Max Cullen and Tony McGillick. In 1960 Johnson first travelled to Europe and eventually landed in a heady London where he recalls being in a “state of complete overstimulation”. Seven years were spent in odd jobs, teaching art and travelling back and forth to France. It wasn’t long before he became captivated by the new American geometric and hard edge painters who were taking the London scene by storm. During this time Johnson continued to show in Australia before returning for the now legendary 1968 exhibition The Field. Soon, however, the New York pull became too great to resist. In ‘69 Johnson moved into William de Kooning’s old loft studio and, placing his canvases on the floor, he began to work in an aerial fashion, which led to more random compositions.

QT_May 9_London Sydney New York

The current show is one of abstract paintings and works on paper made during the 1960s and 70s, with the earliest Sofala, painted in ’64. A born colourist, colour is always foremost in Johnson’s mind.  His pictures from that time are experiments with forms and colour relationships where he’s drawn from what he describes as a  “mathematical energy”. Though they don’t refer to anything real, the paintings and drawings were often sparked by ideas found in the natural world. While this might seem odd, given he was living in two of the largest cities in the world, Johnson declares his vision is never alienated from nature. “I’ve always been interested in the dusk and the pull of the moon, shifting light, changing conditions.”

Until June 14
Annette Larkin Fine Art, Waterloo
Pic: Michael Johnson Senegal Friend, 1974Lefranc Flash Vinylic on cotton duck canvas195 x 210 cmsigned and dated ‘M. Johnson 74’ and with Gallery A label (on the reverse). Painted in The Bowery Studio, New York City. Courtesy the artist and Annette Larkin.

Sharne Wolff

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