Limpi Tjapangarti, c.1983
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Mori Gallery, Sydney, circa 1984-85
Private collection, Sydney
Julie Ewington & Wayne Tunnicliffe, Tim Johnson – Painting Ideas, Sydney, 2009, illus. p. 33
Donna Leslie, Spiritual Journeying – The Art of Tim Johnson, Australian Scholarly, North Melbourne, 2019, pp.40-42; illus. p.40
‘…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’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. 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.
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.
Johnson lives and works in Sydney and is represented by Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, Milani Gallery, Brisbane and Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney.