Through painting, printmaking and drawing, Ryan Painter Johnson examines time, location, and memory using process and repetition. Drawn to the surprise of experimentation, he works slowly and methodically to conjure atmospheres and compositions that lure viewers. Thoughtful but restless, he often switches media or fixates on certain forms. He finds inspiration in artists who think about space and spiritual presence in their work, in particular, Anselm Kiefer, Cy Twombly, Joan Mitchell, and Andrew Wyeth.
Johnson graduated with a BA in Studio Art from Washington and Lee University in 2015 and plans to attend The City University of New York (CUNY) - Hunter College for a Masters of Fine Arts in painting. He and his wife McKenna currently reside in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
ARTIST'S STATEMENT Over the last few years, I sought to answer this question: How do I best know and understand a place? After several moves across the country, I felt the urgency to document personal sanctuaries in places that were slipping away. All of these spaces were shaped by repeated encounters, becoming a tangle of observation and memory, always evolving. I mimicked this experience in my art by a loose process of derivation, drawing my own pieces successively from observation (the phrase I use for this is “drawing the drawing”). Large sketches of a particular river bed in Virginia, a trail in New Mexico, old home videos, and photos of my grandmother’s living room became sources for extraction. Using mostly charcoal and acrylic paint, I sketched, transformed, rotated, and cropped until I couldn’t retrace my steps. I let my materials and mediums drive each piece, emphasizing mark and repetition and letting patterns emerge on their own. The hope was to revive these memories by making them into something new and full of life -- something unfamiliar, yet intimate. Over time, I found that the translation between media - acrylic paintings of printed marks, charcoal sketches of arranged paintings - was essential to my representation of re-lived history. The finished acrylic paintings unite form, memory, and spirit into a new understanding of place.
A number of artists and writers steer the direction of these pieces. Julie Mehretu and Joan Mitchell were consistent resources as I built formal structure into my drawings and paintings. Anselm Kiefer’s intensity of place pushed me to develop my own motifs and symbols (rivers, wings, curtains, to name a few) that allow my pieces to speak to a shared experience. Written works by Marilynne Robinson and Wendell Berry gave me the vocabulary to discuss the importance of place: how to be somewhere and what to be for. Another strong influence, author Christian Wiman, wrote of “mystery that utterly obliterates reality by utterly inhabiting it, some ultimate insight that is still sight” (My Bright Abyss, 2013). I hope that my artworks resist my own documentation of them, and that the pieces begin to live on their own.
'Goose Creek Trail' or Aspen Wind, Acrylic on canvas, 2020, 30 x 48 inches
'Goose Creek Trail' or Blossom, Acrylic on canvas, 2020. 30 x 48 inches
'Goose Creek Trail' or Storm Blossom, Acrylic and wax pencil on canvas, 2020, 30 x 48 inches
'Goose Creek Trail' or River Curtain, Acrylic on canvas, 2020, 48 x 30 inches
'Goshen' or Fisherman's Morning, Acrylic on canvas, 2020, 30 x 48 inches
'Goshen' or Midnight Spirit, Acrylic on canvas, 2020, 30 x 48 inches
SOLD - 'Goshen' or Meeting Place, Acrylic on canvas, 2020, 30 x 48 inches
'Goshen' or Spring Enthroned, Acrylic and wax pencil on canvas, 2020, 30 x 48 inches
'Goshen' or Floating the River, charcoal, gesso and oil on canvas, 36 x 60 inches
'Goshen' or River Swell, Oil on canvas, 2018, 36 x 60 inches
'Goshen' or Riverbed Praise, oil on canvas with collage, 2018, 36 x 60 inches
'901 Grayson' or A Long Lit Memory, Acrylic on canvas, 2020, 48 x 30 inches
'Goshen' or Frost, Monotype, 2019, 29 x 21 inches
'Goshen' or Off the Path, Monotype, 2019, 29 x 21 inches
'Goshen' or Gently in the Morning, Monotype, 2019, 29 x 21 inches
SOLD - 'Goshen' or Summer Stream, 2000, oil on canvas, 34 x 46 inches
SOLD - 'Goshen' or Rock of Ages, 2018, oil and oil pastel on canvas, 36 x 60 inches
SOLD - 'Goshen' or The Valley Turn, oil and oil pastel on gessoed paper, 22 x 3o inches
SOLD - Goose Creek Trail or Stinging Nettle, 2018, Graphite, Acrylic, oil and oil pastel on gessoed paper, 42 x 60 inches
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