Tim Johnson About
Tim Johnson was born in Arkansas in 1957, and lived in Little Rock until relocating to Houston in 1981. He was raised in a family that included many artists; his mother is a realist painter, his maternal grandmother was an Impressionist painter and poet, and his maternal grandfather was a sculptor and successful industrial designer, as well an instructor at the School of the Chicago Art Institute. There are additional artists on both sides of his family, and daily exposure to fine art was an integral part of his upbringing.
Johnson enrolled as a Fine Art Major at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. After three years of study, he changed his major to Advertising, and after college began a career as a commercial artist. His early career included stints as a sign painter and production artist. He also worked as a freelance illustrator in the early to mid 1980s. He eventually became an art director and designer and worked in ad agencies and design firms in addition to his freelance work. In 1996, he became a Senior Designer at Loucks Atelier, where he worked until 2003. After leaving Loucks, he opened Brandwave, an independent design studio.
Johnson works in dry pigments ranging from charcoal, pastels and colored pencil, as well as ink, oils and acrylics, mixed media canvasses, and ___combine frescoes,___ meaning dimensional mixed media works built on a plaster surface. His best known works are mixed media paintings on lokta, a handmade paper from the mountains of Nepal.
The most fertile ground for discovery is the human soul. Spiritual and social experiences leave a subtle residue on our subconscious, which words are inadequate to define. My approach is to create a new visual language with which to explore personal experience.
The images I create are sometimes the result of a plan, an endpoint in a process where I explore an idea and select imagery to illustrate it. Other times, the ideas emerge spontaneously from my subconscious, already completely formed. In all cases, they either result from or fit within a strict matrix of parameters that guide the assignment of meaning.
As a symbolist, I continually regard an infinitely variable range of religious or spiritual observations, socio-cultural patterns and paradigms, political and historical phenomena, individual developmental experiences, personal relationships, emotional and mental paradox, and most of all, my own private dramas. I then apply a process I cultivated as a designer, of selecting (or sometimes inventing) symbols to use in illustrating those ideas.
For every finished work, I generate a dozen ideas that never get out of my sketchbooks. For whether an idea emerges at the end of a conscious process, or springs spontaneously to life fully formed, it must fit the matrix, or it goes into the mental trash heap. It must possess qualities I approve - qualities derived from Thomas Aquinas' definition of beauty, which holds that for an object to be beautiful, it must possess Integras (wholeness), Veritas (truth - or authenticity) and Radii (radiance). More simply put, it must be complete, it must be real and it must radiate.
My design background provides me with a framework known as the "empty vessel." An empty vessel suggests a certain meaning, but can be filled with the viewer__™s own assumptions. The empty vessel doesn't require you to believe anything I say, but rather lets you relate to what I say from your own point of view. In this way, each piece I create is a form of riddle: What are you going to assume about it, and how are you going to respond to it?
Today, when someone works in the realm of the empty vessel, they can be mistaken for a post-modernist, for post-modernism has at its core the notion that we are above truth, that we are capable of creating it ourselves. I am emphatically not a post-modernist. I am a Classicist in many ways, and float somewhere between the realms of pre-modernist and modernist ideology. I don__™t buy the idea that truth is relative, and that my belief of one thing or another affects whether it is true. Deconstruction of social, political or spiritual ideas is a dangerous game I do not play. I respect faith, wisdom and the experience of others. In this way, I see my work as an extension of the ideas and freedoms passed down by our forebears, rather than my own invention of a new ethic.
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