RL Johnson — Review
Edited from a review by Tim Bemister
in the Vancouver Echo Newspaper, Feb.1/99
R.L. Johnson is making history at the Millennium Art Gallery.
Johnson's solo exhibit of 35 large acrylic canvases entitled, "Hieroglyphs, Parables and Other Dimensional Artifacts" opening on Feb. 12th/99, is a precedent setting event as, apart from private collectors, it is the first time the artist has allowed his works to be offered for sale to the public.
Johnson's canvases, hanging on the long white stretches of wall at the Millennium Art Gallery, brim with color, light and creation.
The artist has a background in stained glass design, which shows in his use of strong, full spectrum color, but has spent the last ten years formulating and perfecting a unique and wonderfully transparent and accessible painting style.
He says his work is driven by the muses and that he acts merely as a receptive and willing instrument of the creative forces that animate the universe. And, he feels his images contain a message of joy and spirituality that needs to be revealed at this time.
Johnson calls his unusual technique "animatic" painting. It consists, in part, of richly metaphorical symbols and images set against and embedded in a visually stimulating background.
"My canvases facilitate entry to the innate - but often suppressed - creative vision that lies at the root of all consciousness," said Johnson.
In his paintings, Johnson attempts to bypass the intellect and appeal to primary and primal cognition. To accomplish this he imbues his canvases with pure color and deliciously intricate micro patterns. The resulting optical bouquet is such that the eye is moved around the canvas from one quadrant of light to another, making the viewing experience a type of simulated animation.
The symbolic elements in Johnson's paintings are often mythical and archetypal, while the scenes depicted are illuminations of life at its most fundamental level. Love, death, creation, family, community and sex are all grist for Johnson's mill, and viewing the paintings can stimulate meditations on these primary themes.
Johnson's canvases drip with primal themes; they speak to what is common in all of us. Ultimately, Johnson wants to stir the public imagination so that we may all "participate equally with the artist in the act of creation."
This is a tall order, but Johnson is a huge talent. Judging by the strength of his debut exhibit, he is about to explode onto the Canadian art scene.