Ozymandias (detail) / oil with mixed media, pigment transfers and collage on canvas 2012
T O U C H M E T O U C H Y O U EXHIBITION JULY 17 - AUGUST 11, 2012
INTERVIEW: KATHERINE KEAN WITH JULIENNE JOHNSON
WHY IS SCALE IMPORTANT TO YOU AS AN ARTIST?
Size (scale) is synonymous with the message. It’s quite simple actually: what I have to say is too big for a small canvas, along with a few other factors. From the point that I remove canvases from my rack, some inner discussion (without words) seems to begin taking place. As I start the gesso application, the discussion by then is shaping itself into some sort of concrete format. It can only do this because my composition starts with the gesso. Throughout the process of painting (each canvas) I try to remain flexible, and if it wants to be a different size, I am not opposed to cutting it to the size it favors. The work leads. Like a poem. A joyful experience. There are no rules in my studio. Building, destroying and rebuilding is my process. I do this on every level.
My supply of varying size canvasses are ready in my rack so that I can work intuitively, without thinking about size. The story line comes first - not the size of the canvas. It is not a mental choice. Those other factors include being physically active, even aerobic throughout the life of each work. Just as I am in my own life. Working with my hands onto the canvas creates intimacy and I need room to do that to the full. Like being on a King size bed. If you know me, you know that I am full of energy: High energy. I do almost 4 miles a day outside and a weight workout 3 times a week. Although the health benefits of working out are great, anyone that knows me well knows that I’d be jumping out of windows - flying, if I didn't. That’s the energy that I bring (through my hands) to the canvas. It's just too much on most days, for a small canvas. Most importantly though, it's about the story lines: they are big and full of drama. Every canvas I paint has a life and it needs room to breathe.
WHAT IS IT LIKE GETTING READY FOR AN EXHIBITION, ARE ANY SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS REQUIRED TO EXHIBIT YOUR WORK?
Yes! I’m concerned with the height of the ceilings, the linear feet of wall space and of course, lighting. My work needs breathing space. It’s intense. I'll always be proactive in the lighting of my shows; Lighting to an artist is as sound to a singer. How can I not be involved?
WHAT EXPERIENCE WOULD YOU LIKE THE VIEWER TO HAVE VIEWING YOUR WORK?
Response! It never is about whether they like a painting or want to purchase it. That’s for my agent and/or the Gallery director to concern themselves with. I’d like the painting to be a conversation opener: dialogue between them and me. I’ve started the conversation, and then it's their turn to talk.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS YOUR RECENT TRIP TO DOHA, QATAR IMPACTED YOUR WORK?
It's as though everything in the T O U C H M E T O U C H Y O U show is covered with dust. There’s heaviness about the work. The hues all have a sort of muted, dusty blend; no matter how I've attempted to make adjustments, somehow those dusty shades kept finding their way back to the mix. My experience was similar when I painted "Trust ^ 3" in 2010. The 14' x 5' triptych is mostly red. Although it's a dozen of shades of red - it's still red. Very intense. It was so uncomfortable that every day when I came to the studio, my priority was to set about getting rid of that red. Although I would, before the day was over - it was there - again. Finally, I let it be. Having just buried my mom and five months earlier, my dad - "Trust ^ 3" really longed to be red. Something like that is going on with the T O U C H M E T O U C H Y O U works as well; they want to be dusty and muted. After struggling over the months, I’ve finally given in. So while I talk about letting the work lead, perhaps you've noticed that I'm not exactly a pushover. Still, I'd like to know what's going on with the dusty look. Doha's a dessert. A city (with absolutely stunning architecture) only partially constructed; so there's a great deal of dust flying around. The culture itself has further impacted my work, because it has impacted me. There’s a lot of veiling on this work - more than ever before. I will not be the same since my trip to Doha. I will not forget! This is the most edgy work that I've exhibited to date.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR JOURNEY AS AN ARTIST GOING FROM HERE?
I want to continue walking with my eyes open wide. I want to continue allowing my world to filter through me into the work without monitoring. I have a strong need for seeing everything and putting it down. A strong need to leave something. If you read the 2011 interview, you know that I used to put little messages in bottles and bury them or try to sink them in the Thunder Bay River. I will continue doing that.
JULIENNE JOHNSON'S exhibition begins July 17, 2012.