artnet Asks: Ian Johnson

His erudite minimalism draws inspiration from cartography and neurology.

Ian Johnson
Ian Johnson Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Ian Johnson is a London-based artist obsessed with the study of color and form. His minimal paintings draw their inspiration from literature, science, and nature. He often takes inspiration from cartography and semiotics, and paints fused panels of plywood with gradients and combinations of paint, from acrylic to spray paint. His work has been exhibited widely in the UK, and in Europe and Latin America, including at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and at Skot Foreman Gallery in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
From a very early age. I was once caught by my mother trying to cut the kitchen table leg off because I needed that particular section of wood for some project or other.

I think she realized I was going to be an artist at that point!

Ian Johnson, Level 5 Set BW

Ian Johnson, Level 5 Set BW (2013)
Polychrome enamel on wood
Photo courtesy of the artist and Skot Foreman Fine Art.

What inspires you?
The belief that art has the capacity to help shape the way we see and experience the world.

Ian Johnson, Polychrome Diptych Panel (2013)

Ian Johnson, Polychrome Diptych Panel (2013)
Enamel on wood with fabricated metal
Photo courtesy of the artist and Skot Foreman Fine Arts.

If you could own any work of modern or contemporary art, what would it be?
The End of the Twentieth Century by Joseph Beuys (1983–85).

Ian Johnson, Level Paintings (Quad) (2013)

Ian Johnson, Level Paintings (Quad) (2013)
Enamel on wood with fabricated metal
Photo courtesy of the artist and Skot Foreman Fine Art.

What are you working on at the moment?
I have a number of things on the go in the studio—I’m working on a number of new “Level Paintings,” as well as a new installation titled 4 Elements. I’m also working on a new series of “Climate Drawings.” To make these drawings I’m using natural earth pigments that I’ve collected from a dry lake bed in the central highlands of Mexico as paint, which I delicately apply to large sheets of hand-made bark paper.

When not making art, what do you like to do?
I try and connect with nature as much as possible. Walking and spending time in the natural landscape for me is very soul nurturing, and when I’m not doing this, I enjoy cooking and eating good food with family and friends.


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