Australian painter Helen Johnson is known for her large-scale, figurative works that critically reflect upon the colonial foundations of non-Indigenous Australia and are often realised as double-sided, unstretched canvases. More recently, Johnson has used the medium of painting to explore ideas around woman- and motherhood. Almost at the Surface is a reproduction of the visual journal that Johnson began in 2018 as an assignment for her art therapy studies, while pregnant with her daughter Leah. Its pencil and oil pastel figurative and abstract drawings and text annotations explore the artist’s ‘feelings around pregnancy—love, anxiety, abstraction, transformation, connection—and my changing body.’ Completed several months after the birth of her daughter, the journal vividly records Johnson’s impressions of this time and is published together with a short text by writer and psychoanalyst Kate Briggs.
Almost at the Surface is published on the occasion of the exhibition Judy Watson and Helen Johnson: the red thread of history, loose ends, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, 10 September – 12 November 2022, curated by Hannah Mathews. Judy Watson and Helen Johnson: the red thread of history, loose ends is a Know My Name project and part of The Balnaves Contemporary Series, originally commissioned by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 19 February – 15 June 2022, curated by Jaklyn Babington, Tina Baum and Elspeth Pitt.
200 pages, softcover, 14.7 x 23 cm, full colour with black-and-white section
Authors: Helen Johnson, Kate Briggs
Design: Stuart Geddes and Trent Walter
Printing: Gunn & Taylor, Geddes & Walter
Edition: First edition of 300
Published by: Monash University Museum of Art and Negative Press