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Tim Johnson

b. 1947

Tim Johnson, Sydney-based artist, was part of a circle of urban conceptual artists in the 1970s. A serious painter at high school, Johnson took an arts degree at the University of New South Wales between 1966 and 1970. In 1970 he founded, along with Mike Parr and Peter Kennedy, one of the original artist-run spaces in Sydney, Inhibodress. In that period of his career he made performance pieces and films, rather than objects, and he was interested in art as a 'language'. In the 1970s he made a series of paintings of the band Radio Birdman. Johnson first encountered the paintings of Clifford Possum, Tim Leura and other Papunya artists when they were exhibited in Sydney in 1977. Three years later, he began visiting Central Australia. On his first visit, Johnson took photographs of Western Desert artists, which he later used as the basis of portrait paintings. As he sought out ways of drawing together threads of conceptual art and painting, Johnson began to paint on the same canvas as some of the Papunya artists. Often, he worked with Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. He was also given permission to employ stylistic motifs used by Papunya artists in his own work, and, importantly, to fill areas of his canvas with dotting. In this way, Johnson's paintings became unique in Australian art. Since then, he has frequently incorporated symbols and motifs drawn from Asian cultures, as well as flying saucers, aliens and cartoon figures in the Astroboy or Pokemon mould. A major touring retrospective of Johnson's work, Tim Johnson: Painting ideas was co-convened by the Queensland Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of New South Wales toured in 2009.

Updated 2018