CADMIUMS, 2005-06

Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2007


born 1938
CADMIUMS, 2005-06

oil on canvas

122.0 x 366.0 cm

signed, inscribed and dated verso: Michael Johnson 2005/6 "-CADMiUMS"

$45,000 - 65,000
Sold for $50,400 (inc. BP) in Auction 2 - 29 August 2007, Melbourne

Private collection, Sydney

Catalogue text

The following extract is quoted from the 'Introduction' by Victoria Lynn to the catalogue accompanying the major survey exhibition Michael Johnson, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 8 February - 2 April 1989.

Perhaps the most dramatic shift in Johnson's career has been the increased use from about 1981, of painterly gesture, and with it, a switch from the compositional geometric vertical forms to horizontal zones. It is interesting to recall that prior to the shaped canvases of 1968-69, Johnson was painting organic abstractions and admits to feeling a conscious need to impose order to the organic. The complication of the surface from 1981 and the attendant spontaneity of brushwork thus signals not so much a development in the expression of unmediated emotion as a gradual disappearance of conceptual restraint.

...The perceptual properties of the horizontal zone have also preoccupied Johnson further in the last few years, with these borders becoming planes of activity, set above and below, rather than behind or on the edge of the middle expanse. They do not imprison, recede or protrude. They have become more than a formal device and are in fact integral to Johnson's conception of nature. Johnson does not imitate, illustrate or describe nature. In this respect, his large horizontal canvases have been enthusiastically compared with Monet's most abstract works - like the free, thinly painted waterlilies in the Musée Marmottan, or the bridge paintings which have a middle zone and cascading vertical reeds.

In Monet, the abstraction lessens with the viewer's distance as the details of flowers and leaves come into focus. In Johnson too, the three zones are three thresholds for the viewer to dive beyond and dream, however they remain tensely located on one plane and this, together with the matière of the luscious paint, brings us back to the reality of Johnson's abstraction. As Johnson himself explains, the paintings will not tolerate the idea of a picture, 'it just won't let in,' because they are preoccupied with the spectacular process of their own formation.

The concept of nature as three zones which are concurrently akin to the horizons of a landscape, or its elements (sky, earth, water) and the self-consciousness of the paint on the canvas... Like Matisse's use of oriental motifs in the Nice paintings where the pattern weaves everything into a tapestry of light, Johnson's mosaic of colours meanders in and through the image, seducing the viewer in a myriad of sensual forms which epitomise joie de vivre...