John Hurrell – 9 December, 2015
Each of Johnson's framed pastel images - here in several sizes - has a unique flavour due to the colour combinations made on the day the artist reached for her marker pens, ink, acrylic or metallic paints, and gouache. As Art Deco Sci-Fi fantasies they feature backdrops of receding architectural towers, complex lattices, and - close to the picture plane - compact boy bodies with snarling animal faces (if they have heads at all).
18 November - 19 December 2015
These ten works from Jess Johnson (hand-coloured prints and drawings) continue themes she has been presenting for several shows now at Ivan Anthony, exuberant and complex images that look like circus or carnival posters, but with creepier elements incorporated that come from her keen interest in comics and graphic novels.
Each of Johnson‘s framed pastel works - here in several sizes - has a unique flavour due to the colour combinations made on the day the artist reached for her marker pens, ink, acrylic or metallic paints, and gouache. As Art Deco Sci-Fi fantasies they feature backdrops of receding architectural towers, complex lattices, and - close to the picture plane - compact boy bodies with snarling animal faces (if they have heads at all).
The leering faces have a hint of US illustrator and writer, Charles Burns, but they are often deformed or split to take on a weird wounded or vulvic quality as an element of horror. Referencing various styles of animation, dog, pig, cat, lion and ram visages (along with Chinese masks) are cleaved to also expose comic collages, while the contorting unclad figures (doing handstands in profile, and various letter-shaped configurations) squeeze into gaps between buildings.
Johnson obviously likes the obsessive activity of hand-colouring in the small multiples, and of drawing, and within their making, enjoys orchestrating intricately patterned urban architecture and lettered messages as backdrops for expressive body postures and wildly bestial facial grimacing.
Overall it is Johnson’s extraordinary eclecticism that fascinates, mixing in with her love of intricate ornamentation and compositional symmetry, unexpected elements such as Gothic architecture, Occult symbolism, Space Invader games, and Babylonian wall reliefs, but via a pixellated colour sense that shimmers, flickers and moves in advancing waves - as if electronic. They are printed posters that allude far beyond the limitations of that paper medium. As if embedded with LEDs, and plugged in themselves.
By the way, if you are going to be in Mebourne over Christmas, Johnson also has a spectacular moving image show at the NGV. A virtual reality animation piece that you’d be nuts to miss.
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