Nicholas William Johnson

Born in Honolulu (1982), lives and works in London. He received his MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art in 2014. He was shortlisted this year for the Catlin Art Prize. Upcoming exhibitions include Island at g39, Cardiff;  …and the soft ground is also a constellation… at Lychee one, London. Recent exhibitions include The Catlin Art Prize, London; A Crazed Flowering, Frameless Gallery, London; Saatchi New Sensations, London; and Art in Romney Marsh Visual Arts Festival, Kent.

When pressed, I say I paint flowers. I know this can come off naïve, but I like the dissonance such an obsolete sentiment can create around current discourses in art. And obsolescence is precisely the point, or perhaps decay; the idea that anything if abandoned will be reclaimed and repurposed.

My work mines histories that sit buried or latent within a landscape and can be invoked. At the same time it explores how modes of perception shift overtime, from the painted observation to the filmed image, what happens if the subject remains the same over so many years, but the method of representing it shifts? Do our methods of looking at it, of comprehending it also shift? This is how obsolete ideas can create discourse in a contemporary context, by positioning new methods in relation to old methods without giving precedence to either.

For this exhibition I have compiled some objects that chart and echo the research I was engaged in during this residency. Initially I was interested in black mirrors and this line of enquiry expanded into the book …and the soft ground in the garden is also a constellation….

The table is intended to function as a mirrored surface, which echoes the experience of observing the pond in the Super8 film. This is the lotus pond at Kew Gardens where the water is dyed black to prevent the growth of algae in the still water. It creates a perfectly black mirror. A large painting borrows a chestnut leaf motif from a drawing by Samuel Palmer and expands this tiny detail from an old work to fill an expansive surface, an appropriation and a shift in representation. The black and white prints on the wall, visually catalogue and further explore possible associations and threads that underlie the work and some of the research compiled in the text work: viewing devices, attempts at rendering invisible phenomena visible, hoaxes, magic, alchemy, pseudo-science, and attempts to explain and communicate with the divine.


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