Helen Johnson’s practice is concerned with how painting can be used as a means of addressing and reflecting on aspects of cultural identity in an open – as opposed to declarative – way. Though grounded in figuration, Johnson’s approach to painting diverges in search of pluralism and openness, where the privilege of the subject is challenged. For Johnson, painting is a space where seemingly incontestable things are constantly being reconsidered, put into new relations with other things, where slippage is always present.
Select solo exhibitions: Helen Johnson: Let the Painter In and Out, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (forthcoming), 2022; Judy Watson & Helen Johnson: the red thread of history, loose ends, Balnaves Commission exhibition with Judy Watson, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2022; Warm Ties, ICA, London, Chapter, CardiffandArtspace, Sydney, 2017-18; Ends, New Museum, New York, 2017; Barron Field, Glasgow International, 2016; Cafe Fatigue, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne 2015; The body is through, Laurel Gitlen, New York, 2015; Slow Learners, Château Shatto, Los Angeles, 2015; Ex-execs, Minerva, Sydney, 2014; Time Flies, Sutton Projects, Melbourne, 2014; Problem History, MADA Gallery, Melbourne, 2014.
Select group exhibitions: Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2020; Painting. More Painting, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2016; TarraWarra Biennial: Endless Circulation, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Victoria 2016; I wish I never kissed that frog, Jeanine Hofland, Amsterdam, 2015; Relational Changes, Christine König Galerie, Vienna, 2015; In my absence, Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris, 2015; June: A Painting Show, Sadie Coles, London, 2015; Care, Interstate, New York, 2015; Air to Surface: Parker Ito and Helen Johnson, Prism, Los Angeles, 2013.
Art has been used to construct the very idea of a nation and Johnson’s beguiling, double-sided paintings offer a momentary intervention into the cultural narratives, spaces and texts of the place now termed Australia.Stephen Gilchrist, 2017