Using Abstract Lines to Create Space and Grotesque Faces
San Francisco-based artist Courtney Johnson crosses painting and installation to fasten line, color and abstract lines to create space in surreal, almost psychedelic installations. Johnson attended Prescott College in Arizona for her Bachelors degree in art, and then achieved an MFA from California College of the Arts in California. She has been featured as a solo artist in San Francisco, but it would appear that her passion lies in shared gallery exhibits.
In Tapping the Mirror (2015), an installation using acrylic paint on wallpaper and acrylic and oil on canvases, Johnson collaborated with sculptor Brynda Glazier to create an experience combining sculpture, painting, and abstract video. The manipulation of space works well with the artist’s tendency towards creating an ambiguous atmosphere. Both the paintings on wallpaper and on canvas inhabit curvy lines made up of no more than five grey-toned colors. Johnson collaborated on the experimental video with Glazier to create the obtuse, elaborately avant-garde video projection that blends glimpses of humanity and social interaction, displayed in the dark, foreboding hall alongside Glazier’s equally alien sculpture work.
Some of Johnson’s paintings are almost lifelike realizations of abstract content. Using oil on canvas, Johnson employs two colors, yellow and black, to create a three-dimensional space with light and shadow in Waiting Room (2014). Simply using line to compartmentalize space and create distance from one curve under the next, Johnson accomplishes the kind of depth that one expects to see in a fully realized still-life painting. The abstract nature of the piece hurdles together each line at the top like a bundled blanket, and opens up as the lines continue down the bottom of the canvas.
In other pieces, Johnson incorporates an almost Roald Dahl styled fascination with grotesque, puke-colored hands and distorted and hideous pen-drawn faces. From a distance, her black and white canvases of cross-hatched shading take on the form of a cloud of smoke, or a distant hallway. The variety in Johnson’s work demonstrates a passion for exploration and demonstration, whether it be with likeminded collaborators or on her own with a brush and some canvas.
Check out more of Johnson’s work at her website.