Tim Johnson

Weaver 2, 2004
acrylic on canvas
152.0 x 182.0 cm
signed, dated and inscribed with title (on the reverse)

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Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne

'Tim Johnson - Imitating Art', Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, 3 March - 9 April 2005

One of the most outstanding and overdue survey exhibitions over the last few years was 'Tim Johnson Painting ideas' held at the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney; GOMA, Brisbane and presently on show at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at Melbourne University.

Here is an artist who visually weaves the rich symbolism of our culturally diverse country, with the assistance of the many influences and inspirations of his life. In 'Weaver 2', narratives float on a ethereal backdrop of Aboriginal dots and a cross-cultural amalgamation of Asian cultural symbols - the phoenix, buddha, figures of Japanese Kabuki incorporated with Aboriginal and Chinese stylistic techniques.

As noted by art critic Ashley Crawford in a review of the 2005 exhibition which this work was included within 'The results are breathtaking amalgams of various cultures where the holy and the transcendental are almost everyday functions of social culture..Johnson's work, from a distance resembles holy reliquaries, untouchable in their spiritual value'

  • Weaver 2

Image courtesy of the artist

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‘…one has to work in a symbolic space, perhaps like the Buddhist Pure Land, or the mandala itself, to create an illusory reality or a virtual reality in which the space that the artwork occupies is revealed to the audience that can read enough signs to unravel its meanings.’ (Tim Johnson, quoted in Wayne Tunnicliffe, ‘Pure Land Painting’ in Tim Johnson: Painting Ideas, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, p. 58.)

Tim Johnson’s paintings are fascinating cross-cultural documents that embody the inherent multiculturalism within contemporary society. Born and trained in Sydney, Johnson began as a conceptual and performance artist, establishing the Inhibodress art space in Sydney along with Mike Parr and Peter Kennedy. In 1975-76, Johnson travelled to North and South-East Asia, where Buddhist spirituality and culture left an indelible impression.

Johnson first travelled to Papunya, Northern Territory, in 1980, where he learned dot painting with Aboriginal artists including Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. After seeking permission to continue incorporating indigenous techniques within his paintings, Johnson developed a visual vocabulary that placed the vibrancy of the dot alongside symbols and icons of Asian religion and folklore. The resultant paintings are spiritual landscapes, testaments to Johnson’s connections to different aesthetic traditions around the world. He and his then-wife, the writer and sociologist Vivien Johnson, were instrumental in introducing these Central Australian artists to the art market and increasing the Australian public's awareness and appreciation of First Nations art and culture.

More recently, his contemplation of mythology has led Johnson to popular culture, with symbols from science fiction, video games and Japanese anime being incorporated alongside traditional images of the Buddha or the lotus flower. The common feature of these disparate influences is the sense that there is a shared consciousness of images and symbols from all cultures that makes sense to audiences from all backgrounds.

Tim Johnson has worked and exhibited for almost five decades, both alone and collaboratively with the likes of Karma Phuntsok, My Le Thi and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. In 2009-10, a major solo exhibition, Tim Johnson: Painting Ideas toured the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, and the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne. He showed in 2012 at The Unseen, the Fourth Guangzhou Triennial, China, and has been included in three Biennales of Sydney.