Process

 

What is seen in Johnson’s work is only the top, refined layer of the deep multi-stepped process it undergoes. Viewers see the complex results of a process that is intentionally designed for both conceptual and aesthetic reasons and not for the sake of complexity itself.

Johnson’s two dimensional work has it’s beginnings in the third and fourth dimensions. 21st century still lifes are carefully and intricately built within the studio weeks and usually months before a drawing begins. For days they are left under plastic sheeting to rest in their decomposing bodies and juices, while nature is left to it’s own artistic devices. Velvet and hairlike molds and mildews encapsulate swaths of the construction, and flesh and innards alike sag.

At various points deemed by the artist, the whole stretch is photographed under hot lights, re-propped, oiled and shined, a process reminiscent of advertisement aesthetics. The photographs are further altered through digital means, harnessing the machine’s power to morph the actual into the fantastical in a very believable way.

What results are photographs of the decomposing sculpture at multiple points of rigor and decomposition, far from their natural states. In effect, they are the product of a very natural and real process- decay, presented through a very constructed and theatrical lens.

The photographs may be used as collage materials, or turned into harbingers of image through printmaking. The dismemberment and mirroring that happens here is reminiscent of neo barochial labyrinths and extends Johnson’s smoke and mirrors approach.

Apart from this elaborate building, comes a cookery to develop more drawing materials. The artist allows the subject to become the object and directly useful in the creation of it’s own image. Jars of organic dyes are created from steamed spinach, boiled raspberries, freshly bleeding beets or some other edible flora and used as inks on the paper. Seeds, whole bodies of produce, or prepared foods are also used; expressively spilling their insides onto the surface and drying in either muted pools or sticky clumps.

Photograph by Su Yang

As more traditional drawing materials begin to appear on Johnson’s studio table, the constructive process starts again, creating an image spanning time and space, and of something that was never really quite there to start with.