“I use the outside world as inspiration and particular places as objects of meditation and reflection.” – Ben Johnson
For his second exhibition at Alan Cristea Gallery, Ben Johnson will present six new intricate paintings of half real, half imagined interiors.
Johnson’s work has been described by Edward Lucie-Smith as a paradox in that it is both real and abstract, “the expression of a finely tuned sense of geometrical order”. Indeed, it is the geometrical precision of Johnson’s work that creates the illusion of complex, three-dimensional space within his canvases. He draws the viewer into his own, reconstructed vision of reality: the viewer inhabits not the building itself but Johnson’s interpretation of it.
Moving away from his more pristine, dreamlike works which depicted modern architectural spaces, in this set of paintings Johnson confronts the physical scars embedded in his chosen spaces. The artist is intrigued by the notion that layers of the past can be left written on interior architecture; the energy of a place cannot be changed by decoration.
Johnson’s Museum Rooms series (2011-2014) depicts the interior of the Neues Museum, Berlin, which was significantly damaged during WorldWar II, and left as a derelict bombsite until David Chipperfield and Julian Harrap’s painstaking restoration work in 2003. The damage inflicted on the building by war is still partially visible today, and is reflected in Johnson’s paintings which document the museum before and after the works. A homely domestic Mexican interior (now the Museo Regional de la Revolución) painted by Johnson belies a tragic past not immediately noticeable; only upon closer inspection do the bullet holes embedded in the brightly-coloured walls become apparent.
Ben Johnson was born in 1946 in Llandudno, Wales. He studied at the Royal College of Art, London and lives and works in London. He has exhibited extensively in Europe and the United States and his work is held in many public collections including the Tate, the V&A and the British Museum in London, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam. He lives and works in London.
Ben Johnson’s work is currently part of a travelling exhibition "Photorealism" at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (30 November 2013 – 30 March 2014). The exhibition broke visitor records at its previous location, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid. The next venue will be the Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao. He exhibited at the National Gallery, London, 2010 where he set up his studio in Gallery I to complete a special work representing the view from the roof of the National Gallery and showing the strong compositional relationship with Canaletto's "The Stonemason's Yard." Johnson completed a similar cityscape of Liverpool in 2008 at the Walker Art Gallery which attracted over 200,000 visitors. It is now in the collection of Liverpool Museums.
He held his first solo show at the Alan Cristea Gallery in November 2010.