Kendall Johnson

As an artist, I see myself less as a creator, more as simply a translator, or conduit between the inarticulate and the private - in critic George Steiner’s words the “anarchic prodigalities of  consciousness and sub-consciousness” - to the more general “latencies of articulation,” the more general realm of public discourse.
Reference: George Steiner Real Presences (1989) p. 12

Layers reflect meaning: underlying and implicit structure drive surface image, and color serves that structure. Our every moment is layered, an interplay between past, present and future; body, mind, spirit, feeling; intention, interpretation, investment; acceptance, resistance, reconstruction; persistence, despair, and hope.

My work is usually a process of discovery. Working physically with canvas, paint and found materials allows me to access more subtle dimensions of ordinary experience in a manner I cannot with speech or writing. Language goes but one word at a time, one concept that belongs more to the culture than to an individual. A painting presents a map of territory only dimly understood. I try to start with a bare impulse — even better, a head as empty as the canvas.

Continuing a trend toward larger paintings, my more recent work explores natural shape as conveyed by patterned—sometimes even pointillistic—application of paint. These experiments in perception ask: just how much pattern do we need to see form, and how much of our perception consists of our constructing form from the dizzying, near random bits of swirling light around us? To what extent is our experience a product of our own construction?

Composite Imagery Photographs and Emergence

Many believe that the proper role of photography is to construct an accurate visual record of some object, scene, or person. That notion lead to a complete reevaluation of painting in the 1880’s, shortly after the development of the first photo techniques, leading to the development of Impressionism as painters who saw themselves as visual recorders envisioned their eventual obsolescence. I see it a little differently. For me, photography is simply another tool that opens new possibilities in image construction. Recently I haven’t had the necessary time to spend in my studio and have returned to processing images. Things have changed since I first studied photography with Robert C. Frampton a Claremont portrait and aerial photographer who allowed me into his darkroom.



A Word About The Process

I frequently begin with a digital image of one of my paintings.  The purpose of this is to capture a basic textural background that sets mood as well as basic composition. The next step is to add an image or two, or perhaps a sandwiched image with it’s own reversal to set basic figuration.  These may be landscape, botanicals, or sometimes images of the earth from space or of space from earth that provide bioformatic, geographic and/or often geometric design. I pass the image back and forth between several image processing programs, each of which I have found particularly robust for specific tasks.  For me, rich and nuanced color, texture, and complex form best capture the multiple layers of experience.

Once several images are layered into a single—albeit complex—whole, I evaluate it by standard criteria of art: composition, color, design, and meaning.  Editing and manipulation of the draft, including additional layers for added color or figure, finalizes the image.  I have found metallic paper critical to capture the resulting intense, complex and varigated shades of color—and hence, meaning.

The use of images combined with their reverse provides an emergent dimension I find particularly interesting.  Obviously projective, ambivalent and ambiguous imagery excites the imagination and invites interpretation.  The interplay of symmetry along with unanticipated and often surprising designs leads to an interesting question.  The emergent figures were obviously implicit and inherent in the original patterned image.  So why do we not normally see them?  Why do we need to have them defined for us by the exigencies of the pattern reversal that binds the shape?  And are we similarly blind to other implicit patterns that are constantly before us without our notice?


© Kendall Johnson.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction of artwork in any form is strictly prohibited.