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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Tim Johnson, 1994 (printed 2018)

Gary Ede

inkjet print on paper (sheet: 49.1 cm x 49.9 cm, image: 45.3 cm x 46.0 cm)

Tim Johnson (b. 1947) is a Sydney based painter, sculptor, teacher and filmmaker. In the 1960s and 1970s he built his reputation on conceptual works, performance happenings, pictures and films of bands, and films on conceptual art. He first visited the Papunya Tula settlement in the late 1970s, documenting, collecting and promoting its art, which was then still little known. Watching the artists at work brought him back to painting; he painted the painters painting, as he had painted cult band Radio Birdman performing. Soon he started using dots in his own work. In the 1986 Biennale of Sydney an allusion-laced dotted painting by Johnson hung alongside the work of Papunya Tula artist Michael Jagamara Nelson, who along with Clifford Possum was one of Johnson’s major collaborators in the 1980s. Scholar Vivien Johnson, who has written extensively on both Clifford Possum and Tim Johnson, points out that although he was initially suspected of appropriation of Indigenous culture, Johnson kept dotting long after the Aboriginal artists with whom he had worked stopped. ‘After twenty years he has become something of a virtuoso, with his own individual style’, she writes. ‘His imagery ranges from Tibetan Buddhism to extra-terrestrials, but the lyrically beautiful dotted fields in which it is set testify to Johnson’s enduring love affair with Papunya painting’. Gary Ede photographed him working on a typical canvas in the mid-1990s. A few years later, Johnson painted Clifford Possum on commission from the National Portrait Gallery, incorporating many miniature symbols and scenes relating to his life.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2018
© Gary Ede

Accession number: 2018.108

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Gary Ede (age 48 in 1994)

Tim Johnson (age 47 in 1994)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.