Helen Johnson Cafe Fatigue

5 September –
3 October 2015
It doesn’t say this is a problem we have to solve, it says how do you respond
Helen Johnson

It doesn’t say this is a problem we have to solve, it says how do you respond

, 2015
Acrylic on canvas
86 x 61cm

The waitress takes the crockery and accoutrements of the ‘ultimate breakfast’ I just consumed. Free range egg rolled omelette, a small grilled salmon fillet, potato salad, seasonal green vegetables with sesame oil, natto, nori, umeboshi, brown rice, pickles and miso soup. What are you reading, she asks. I hold the book up so she can see the cover. I read a chapter of that recently, she said. It’s really good. It’s amazing, I said. Affirmative… in the face of… the apocalypse. We both laughed. She walked off.

Sitting, abstracted – paintings become abstracted from their sources over murky jars of water, as sitters become abstracted from their thoughts over coffee. During the process of making a painting, the idea of what it will be shifts, as the materials and the processes of translation from mind to hand have their say in what comes out, and what then needs to be done with it. There is usually a point when a painting becomes its own particular problem, where what appears is not what was planned, and the way forward is not clear – each finds its own way to ask the question of how it will be resolved. If there is no problem to overcome, the translation can feel too direct, too controlled. Through this process, representational elements become enmeshed, obscured, vestigial, a sort of unconscious to the abstracted surface. What are you thinking about? Thinking about… what is this practice? Sitting and asking questions of yourself, every day, in front of these material things. But: as complicit as cafes, maybe. Cafe complicity… zoned for mixed use. One of several thorns in the paw that keep the beast active. Coffee as an accelerant, unrelenting. Keeping yourself off-guard, in a mode where inconsistency equates to satisfaction. Battle fatigues, cafe fatigue. – Helen Johnson, 2015

Select solo exhibitions:

The body is through, Laurel Gitlen, New York, 2015; Slow Learners, Château Shatto, Los Angeles, 2015; Just Paintings, in collaboration with George Egerton Warburton and Hamishi Farah, Westspace, Melbourne, 2014; Problem History, MADA Gallery, Monash University, Melbourne, 2014; Air to Surface (with Parker Ito), Prism, Los Angeles (Curated by Liv Barrett), 2013; Dead Metaphor, ACME Project Space, London, 2012; Universal Remote, Y3K Gallery, Melbourne, 2011; An Effort of Memory, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, 2010; and On the Make, Utopian Slumps, Melbourne, 2009.

Select group exhibitions:

Mary Mary Gallery at Frieze, London (forthcoming), 2015; In my absence, Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris, curated by Dorothea Jendricke, 2015; June: A Painting Show, Sadie Coles HQ, London, 2015; Care, Interstate, New York, curated by Dana Kopel and Marian Tubbs, 2015; I refuse to participate in failure, SPREEZ, Munich, curated by Philipp Reitsam, 2015; Utopian Slumps, Melbourne, 2014; Sunny and Hilly, Collage: The Heide Collection, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 2013; Negotiating This World: Contemporary Australian Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2012; and New06, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2006.

Johnson has undertaken international studio residencies in London, Norway and Germany. She was also a studio artist at Gertrude Contemporary between 2003 and 2005, and Artspace, Sydney, in 2012.

Artist’s profile