15 June — 5 July 2017
Opening: Saturday, 17 June, 2:00 — 4:00 pm
Melbourne-based artist Christine Johnson has dedicated her practice, spanning over three decades, to the visual exploration of plants in Australia. Her canvases burst with flowers in full bloom, each a technical feat celebrating their sheer natural beauty and tendency towards feminine sensuality.
Through the beginning of her practice Johnson found inspiration nearby, often as close as her garden. Begonias #15 (2010) and Persian roses (2014) depict flowers familiar to most, which often fail to register as the exotic species that they are.
In 2012 Johnson embarked on a large-scale project as a Creative Fellow at the State Library of Victoria that resulted in Voyages Botanical. The body of work including engravings such as Holly flame pea (A series) (2014) and Native cornflower (A series) (2014) and drawings such as Blue dampiera (2014) are inspired by the work of Australia’s earliest botanical artists.
Johnson’s multi-layered investigation delves into the act of seeing Australia and trying to understand it, filtered through the eyes of artists spanning generations. The celebrated body of work offers viewers the opportunity to relish the unique qualities of native plant species, but furthermore to contemplate how the categorisation of information affects how we view our surroundings, creating familiarity through the designation of names and captured images, and alienation otherwise.
Florae encapsulates the transition of Johnson’s interest from exotics to native plants. With works spanning 2010 to 2017, the survey exhibition engages with the process of Eurocentric knowledge creation in juxtaposition to the pre-existing indigenous names and understandings.
Each work is a palimpsest revealing multitudinous stories beginning with the vast knowledge built into evolutionary biology and the memory of ecosystems, and ending with questions about the consequences of the colonisation of Australia and reconciling the incongruities of Australian identity.
As Morag Fraser wrote of Voyages Botanical, “Johnson’s prints celebrate that beauty, ancient but still new, and alert us to its fragility. Her art meshes hope and caution just as it brings science into the service of an artistic vision and art into the realm of serious thought – thought about value, environment, international cooperation and identity.”
SELECTED RECENT EXHIBITIONS
DENFAIR, Fox Galleries, Melbourne
Voyages Botanical (solo), Montsalvat, Victoria
Voyages Botanical and Inland (solo), at Mildura Arts Centre, Mildura, VIC
Launch of Voyages Botanical (solo), Alliance Francaise, Melbourne
Voyages Botanical (solo), The State library of Victoria, Melbourne
Melbourne Art Fair, Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne