N I C K J O H N S O N (b. 1941)
We are delighted to announce Nick Johnson’s sixth solo exhibition with Browse & Darby, opening on 5th April 2017, which will comprise of several large-scale sculptures, made from intricately carved and painted reclaimed wood, shown alongside a collection of related preparatory drawings and paintings.
This series of work, produced in his Lewes studio in East Sussex, is the result of over a decade of assiduous planning and physically demanding labour. The show will focus upon four major pieces; a pair of majestic vultures, a monumental sow pig and an elegant flamingo. Furthermore, there will be three smaller sculpted works – a greyhound, a whippet and a cockerel – which together demonstrate the artist’s versatility in working with different subjects, media and scale.
On being questioned about his recent fascination with a species of bird that has historically been pitched as the villainous foe, Johnson proclaims:
‘there is a certain disreputable aspect to vultures, which is hardly deserved. They are beautiful without the pomposity of falcons and eagles’.
Indeed, Johnson reappraises the perceived miscreants as noble creatures, though they retain a certain portentous air in their splendid three dimensionality, and the intricacy with which he works the wood serves to highlight their natural beauty.
Johnson’s work draws upon a seductive mix of international heritage that sprung from a significant voyage made some years ago to Africa:
‘[my family and I] lived in Nigeria and Kenya for some years in the 1970s and 80s, where I taught fine art. I think that this experience pushed me towards sculpture. African art is so overwhelmingly three dimensional, which inspired me to think in sculptural terms’.
Wood has remained Johnson’s medium of choice since the embryonic years of his career. Now well-established, this recent series perfectly embodies the grace and dignity which he bestows upon each subject. Yet he maintains a refreshingly pragmatic outlook on his work:
‘Wood is relatively easy to work; it is versatile, easily obtained, and has a great variety of colour and grains. The wood I use is seasoned and recycled, and, importantly: it can be painted.’
A sculptor at heart, Johnson is also a great admirer of painting. The role that pigments and variations in tone play in his work should not be underestimated: ‘I admire painters as well as sculptors; Barbara Hepworth, Brancusi, Picasso, as well as Rubens, Goya, Delacroix, Frans Snyders and Hondecoeter’.
According to Johnson, all artists ultimately face the same challenge, that of ‘achieving balance, movement and strength of conviction in every aspect’. In his work we experience the masterful amalgamation of all three in beautifully sculpted wood.