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Populate! update #5 (back to the drawing board)

Behind the scenes

Today the Populate! tenth-birthday sneak-preview cam takes us to 200 Gertrude Street in Melbourne and the studio of New Zealand-born and now Melbourne-based Jess Johnson, well known as a force behind the maverick outfit Hell Gallery and now, as you can see, thoroughly busy making art of her own.

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Though the old mythology of the artist in his studio (and it usually was his studio, not hers) has undergone an often-deserved dismantling in the past couple of decades, I still find views of artists' studios utterly absorbing to look at. The artful squalor of Francis Bacon's studio set the bohemian standard of course, giving thousands of angsty young men high-cultural permission not to clean up after themselves.

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Jess Johnson's studio is of the opposite kind: ordered rather than abandoned. But it's no less rich in personality, in a sense of the maker's mind. Get close to Jess's pictures and there is in fact no shortage of chaos or imaginative turbulence, it's just that it's brought in line, measured and marshalled, by eye-boggling fields of pattern.

Jess Johnson Mike TV 2013. Pen, Copic markers, metallic paint, collage on paper. Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney; and Utopian Slumps, Melbourne

Jess Johnson Mike TV 2013. Pen, Copic markers, metallic paint, collage on paper. Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney; and Utopian Slumps, Melbourne

The works above are among eleven that'll go on show in Christchurch on 10 May at 209 Tuam Street, in her show called Wurm Whorl Narthex. There's a twelfth drawing, no less intricate, which Jess will unfold all over the walls of the exhibition space itself... The sneak-preview cam will bring reports.

Related

Exhibition
Jess Johnson: Wurm Whorl Narthex

Jess Johnson: Wurm Whorl Narthex

New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based artist Jess Johnson makes intricate drawings and painted environments that evoke other worlds and parallel realities.

Collection
Boston Visionary Cell
Jess Johnson Boston Visionary Cell

“I’ve drawn for as long as I remember”, says Jess Johnson, a New Zealand artist now living in New York, whose work blends science fiction, popular culture and technology, creating speculative worlds in architectural settings. “Elements of my drawings now aren’t very different from what I drew as a kid. I always used lots of repetitive pattern and I would just work the page until I’d filled it to the edges. There’s something about the labour involved in drawing that suits my psychology. It means I get to spend long hours in the studio thinking my own thoughts.”“What comes out of my drawings is a result of what I put in. The books that I read. The things that scare me”, she says. “To be able to imagine different possibilities, that’s the first step to being able to change your own reality. To be able to imagine a different one.”

(We do this, 12 May 2018 - 26 May 2019)