111 Helen Johnson: Introduction
My name is Helen Johnson. I am an artist based in Melbourne Australia where I was born and grew up. I’m primarily a painter.
This body of work its starting point was very sort of personal and subjective. I started by looking at my family history. My mom is an avid researcher and producer of our family tree and this is something that she’s been working on for almost a decade. And I started looking at the stories on that family tree going back centuries and drawing upon those stories to sort of produce imagery for the paintings.
My aim with the paintings was not to convey these stories but to use them as a jumping off point and then complicate those stories sort of thinking about my relationship to them and the gap between imagining these people who I’ve never met but who are my forbearers. But also bringing other kinds of subjective imagery into play and sometimes those stories got buried under other layers of paint and aren’t discernable in the works any more, and they became a point at which to depart in a way.
And these paintings ended up inhabiting these particular categories, I guess, thinking about ancestry and forbearers. It kind of, on an unconscious level, established this familial relationship between the paintings so you’ll see in the titles there’s a mother painting, a self painting, a grandmother painting, a child painting, so there is this idea of the paintings having these relations to one another, one kind of bringing forth another.
And I also was thinking a lot making these paintings about the relationship that I have with them in the studio which is very subjective and personal and private and then what happens to them when they go out into the world and they inhabit this really visible space, and they have an audience and they take on a life of their own. This is one of the reason that I called the show Ends because I was thinking about the end of their life in the studio which is the beginning of their life in the world and whether that moment constitutes a death or the beginning of a life, or maybe both.