R.L. Johnson: Hieroglyphs, Parables and Other Dimensional Artifacts

Millennium Art Gallery, Vancouver
Opening February 12

R.L. Johnson, Flood of Tears (1998),
acrylic on canvas

Typical of the advent of each new millennium is a shift to a mythical and spiritual ethos. Uneasy about the sense of liminality imposed by the turn of a century, artists historically have turned to visionary and symbolic perspectives in the final years. Whether prophetic or documentary in intent, such bodies of work appear timeless in their style and approach.

Vancouver artist R.L. Johnson uses the word “animatism” to describe both his search for a spiritual aesthetic and his working process. He has adopted the centuries-old tradition of artist-as-vessel to allow what he refers to as “the muses” - the creative forces that animate our universe - to use him as their instrument for the emergence of symbolic imagery. This process of primal cognition, he believes, enabled a “new, 21st Century aesthetic to be born”.

Reminiscent of both cave drawings and surrealist symbolism, Johnson’s paintings illuminate life at a most fundamental and primitive level. Themes of love, death, creation, family, community and sex are depicted with stylized figures and decorative icons arranged on ambiguous planes of acrylic texture. As entry points for the stimulation of innate and suppressed feelings and thoughts, the paintings represent a form of art for meditation and reflection.

© Mia Johnson