Important Australian + International Fine Art
25 November 2009

Michael Johnson

born 1938

oil on linen

213.0 x 183.0 cm

signed, dated and inscribed verso: “GREEN ONE” Michael Johnson 1986

$25,000 - 35,000

Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

Painted in the same year as Michael Johnson's solo exhibition at Melbourne University, Green One 1986 is an open window onto the halcyon days of the artist's practice. The early 1980s had been a climactic period for Johnson. He had achieved considerable success, both critical and commercial, and following the transition from acrylic paint to oil, had begun to produce works of burgeoning intensity.

Committed to abstraction, the enormous task that Johnson set himself was the creation of work within a context both Australian and international. As noted by curator Terence Maloon in the catalogue which accompanied the Melbourne University exhibition; 'Through the semiotics of colour, and through that alone, a viewer can infer Johnson's bohemian, cosmopolitan and anti-protestant characteristics and a good deal else about his personality and life's experience. We can also gauge the breadth of his ambition' His work reveals a man of more than average sensuality, who has a lust for experience, is uplifted by beauty, and is much more skeptical than he'd admit about our puritanical equations of truth and ugliness, rectitude and austerity 'We encounter a productive contradiction throughout Johnson's work between his 'purism' and his hedonism. Like Matisse, he stages a showdown in almost every painting he tackles.'1

It is this 'showdown', manifested in the consuming, remorseless energy of his work, which has secured Johnson his place in the pantheon of Australian painting. In his foreword for the 2004 publication 'Michael Johnson', Edmund Capon observed, 'Michael Johnson's work is indisputably abstract and yet the line and the mark, both processes of definition are fundamental. His work of the last two decades has been characterised by powerful moods of texture and colour articulated by lines. Beneath those threading, sometimes rambling, sometimes emphatic lines of unrestrained untainted colour, moves a convulsive world heaving with layers of paint that are rich with experience and resonate with emotion. They are, as they live and breathe, a culmination.'2

1. Maloon, T., 'Introduction' in Michael Johnson paintings 1968-1986, University Gallery, University of Melbourne, 1986
2. Capon, E., in Pearce, B., (ed.), Michael Johnson, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2004, p. 15