ON THE MAKE
EXHIBITION SAT 14 UNTIL SAT 28 NOVEMBER
This exhibition presents a body of work that slides between formal, practical and ideological concerns; on the make figured here as 'on the subject of making' over the top of the more obvious associations of striving for something. It is an exhibition laden with questions more than answers. Investigations into the material possibilities of painting, the limitations of the pictorial field, the idea of painting as moment of tension or divider, reductive abstraction versus constructed representation, become the stage for asking questions about society and the individual: about what it means to be an Australian artist; what feminism means in contemporary society, and how much of a presence misogyny maintains (what would you think of this if it was painted by a man?); what is left of worker's insurrection; what is left of smoking's cool; what Europeans think of Australia; what it means to be 'green' these days; the ways in which people attempt to escape bureaucratic drudgery.
Self-absorbed subjects undertake quotidian tasks and private thoughts, their composure falling into step as the possibilities of painting's objecthood is explored; the constructs, functioning at once as object and revealed support, will be suspended, leant, propped on other objects, tethered, wedged. The painting style is visually soft and tonally subtle, which both counters a monumentalist reading and encourages a subjective one. The images are opaque, enigmatic; the product of subjective experience intermingling with canonical references to arrive at a new point. This exhibition endeavours to draw the materiality of the work into conversation with questions about socio-cultural construction. It continues a long-standing interest in the dynamics of cultural production in Australia, in particular the processes of adopting, filtering and subjectivising styles and movements from other places that are so central to the way we make ourselves.
Helen Johnson completed a BFA (Hons) in Painting at RMIT in 2002 and her Master of Fine Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2008. Solo exhibitions include 'Love over Gold', Sutton Gallery, 2009; 'The tides are a fight between the Earth and the Moon' at Future/Present, curated by Cecilia Alemani for Artissima07, Turin, Italy, 2007; 'Do not go gentle into that goodnight', Sutton Gallery, 2007; 'Some thoughts on interiority', Summer residency presentation, Kunstlerhaus Dortmund, Germany, 2007; 'Australia in the Seventies', Joint Hassles, 2007; and Melbourne Art Fair, Project space for Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces with Michelle Ussher, 2006. Recent group exhibitions include 'New World Records' curated by Nick Mangan and Helen Johnson, Sutton Gallery, 2009, 'Octopus', curated by Steven Gilchrist, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, 2009; Sutton Gallery @ Depot Gallery, Sydney, 2008; and 'New 06', curated by Juliana Engberg, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 2006.