If a painting is a portal to another dimension, then the canvases of Tim Johnson are magic carpets, each one an invitation to embark on a voyage through the acclaimed Sydney-based artist's personal cosmology. Revealing his sustained interest in Buddhism and other Eastern traditions, these serenely composed constellations of figures, objects and symbols inhabit an exalted space free from everyday concerns. Johnson's first show in five years with Tolarno Galleries, which has represented him since 1987, Parallel Universe brings together 12 new paintings, five of them made in collaboration with Daniel Bogunovic, a self-taught artist who lives in LA.
In his paintings Tim Johnson traces connections he perceives as underlying artistic and spiritual practices across countries and cultures. Johnson began making art in the late 1960s and, along with Mike Parr and Peter Kennedy, was one of the founding members of the Sydney co- operative experimental art gallery Inhibodress. Inhibodress only existed for two years but it was a catalyst for the development of conceptual, post-object and performance art in Australia.Later in the 1970s Johnson returned to painting and in 1980 he acted on an earlier seemingly prophetic dream and visited the Aboriginal artists of the Western Desert, spending time at Papunya and working with senior artists in these communities. Johnson was at this time given permission by the senior artists to use the dots associated so strongly with Western Desert art and which have become integral to his own.
Johnson's iconography is a mix of cultural borrowings and imagery from his richly inventive imagination. Concurrent with his study and experience of Western Desert painting, Johnson's interest in Buddhism and Asian art developed as he explored early Chinese cave paintings, Tibetan and Japanese art, and later American Indian art.
Johnson explores how symbols and motifs from differing cultures, places and times can be combined visually as well as conceptually, resulting in these richly imaginative multi-layered paintings. They seem to propose a parallel perceptual plane to our own in which seemingly incommensurable strands of earthly life, otherworldly manifestations and spiritual imaginings can make sense as part of a greater whole.
Press release courtesy Tolarno Galleries.