Interview with Painter, Printmaker, and Photographer James Johnston
Inspired Journeys is on view at the Prairie Art Alliance Gallery until Thursday October 9th.
|The Double Winged Bird|
Your show includes three different mediums: printmaking, painting, and photography. Do you have a favorite medium?
I’d like to say that my favorite medium is the one that I’m currently engaged with at the time. Of the three, probably photography is most dependent on the circumstances of where and when a good shot is available, so it is the most challenging of the three. Painting for me has always been rewarding but challenging at the same time. It is most likely that once a brush loaded with a pigment touches a canvas, it is extremely hard to alter it. And that leaves printmaking, which I have to admit is my favorite medium, especially intaglio, acid etching needle drawn images on grounded zinc and copper plates. Although the process is extremely messy, for me it is very gratifying. The process allows pieces to be produced in multiples, or limited edition original series. However, each print from the same plate is different, as no two prints are wiped with ink and run through the press in the exact identical way.
|Rays of Hope|
Does the concept for the piece drive the medium or do you design the piece around the medium?
Generally speaking, I do design the piece to fit the medium, especially painting and print making. With photography it is different, as you capture the image before you, and although you can frame the image, and select its composition to a certain extent, you have only what you’re seeing in front of you to make the final piece.
Light has a strong presence in your work, be it as rays of light or dramatic contrast in your photographs. Why is this?
I’ve attempted to create contrast, which I think adds significantly to the dramatic effect of the image. The artistic word for it is “chiaroscuro,” which is the use of strong contrast between light and dark. The old masters, especially Rembrandt, were very adept at this technique.
You have a series of pieces (The Oneness of Mankind, The Double Winged Bird, True and Radian Morn, and The Garden of Humanity) that share similar imagery. There are a series of human outlines often contained within another form. What does this imagery represent?
|True and Radiant Morn|
I’m attempting to portray human forms in the various metaphorical contexts that are given in the Bahá’í writings. In the piece “True and Radiant Morn” for example, the inspiration comes from the words that describe the time that humanity was gathered beneath a sacred tree, on a true and radiant morn. For “The Double Winged Bird,” the figures of men on one wing and women on the other represent that, if both wings are not equally strong, the bird cannot fly, as this is an interpretation of the Bahá’í Principle of the equality of women and men. The Oneness of Mankind’s human form with many individual forms inside represents the interpretation of the quotation that is in part “Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust?” from the Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith.
What is next for you as an artist?