Warm Ties will be the first public solo exhibition of Australian artist Helen Johnson, in collaboration with Artspace, Sydney. Johnson weaves and overlays historical and contemporary signifiers creating points of tension and reflection through the medium of painting. In this exhibition, the complex colonial relationship between Australia and Britain is dealt with on the level of the body, using large-scale paintings mounted to a structure that zigzags through the space.
An economy of images is established within and between paintings; some are given precedence, others made barely legible. The paintings are the size of theatre backdrops, in excess of the body, becoming sets before which to act. Mindful of the ICA’s location on The Mall, close to the seat of power that served as the originary point of Australia’s colonisation, some images concerning Australia’s fraught relationship to British culture and power are freighted back to their point of origin. Humour plays an important role in reflecting on this return—or perhaps more accurately, persistence—of the repressed.
Helen Johnson is an artist based in Melbourne. Recent solo exhibitions include Barron Field as part of the 2016 Glasgow International, Slow Learners at Château Shatto, Los Angeles, 2015 and Cafe Fatigue at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, 2015. She has recently exhibited work as part of Painting. More Painting at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art; In my absence at Jocelyn Wolff, Paris; and Pleasure and Reality at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. In 2015 she published a book titled Painting is a Critical Form, developed from a PhD in Fine Art completed at Monash University where she is also a lecturer. Johnson is represented by Château Shatto in Los Angeles, Pilar Corrias Gallery in London and Sutton Gallery in Melbourne.
Helen Johnson's Warm Ties was co-commissioned by ICA, London and Artspace, Sydney. Its development and presentation is supported by Commissioning Partner the Keir Foundation. The exhibition will be touring to Chapter, Cardiff (1 July – 24 September 2017).