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Title

Sofala

1965


Artist

Michael Johnson

Australia

1938 -


About

Sofala is a former gold rush town located on the NSW Central Tablelands. An enduring subject in mid 20th century Australian art, its landscape and ambiance had attracted the likes of Russell Drysdale and Donald Friend during the late 1940s, who immortalised the place in their iconic paintings of the area. Inspired by Drysdale and Friend before them Michael Johnson and Brett Whitely made several trips to the region, whilst both employed at Lintas advertising agency, and attending evening classes at Julian Ashton Art School and National Art School, Sydney. Setting up digs in the showground pavilion overlooking Sofala, the two made many studies of the township and its natural surroundings, which would form the basis of future works, such as the Whiteley's 'Sofala' 1958, also in the Art Gallery of New South Wales collection.

Johnson's version 'Sofala' 1965, his second depiction of Sofala, the first now held in the National Gallery of Australia, was completed several years later during a seven year period in which the artist had relocated from Sydney to London (1960-1967). In London Johnson was introduced to the latest developments in post-war American art. The early 1960s work of hard-edge painter Leon Polk Smith in particular had a profound influence on the young artist, which is apparent in the minimally divided composition and concentrated palette of 'Sofala'.

Although 'Sofala' is minimally abstract Johnson has not eliminated all references to nature, which the artist would eschew in his minimal geometric late 1960s/1970s works, and would return to somewhat in his gestural lyricist works from the 1980s onward. The square plane of orange has been dissected top to bottom by long and winding double lines, highly suggestive of the earthy colour and curving forms of the countryside.


Details


Other Title

Sofarla


Place where the work was made

London England


Date

1965


Media category

Painting


Materials used

synthetic polymer paint on linen


Dimensions

176.5 x 176.5 cm stretcher


Signature & date

Signed and dated u.r. verso on stretcher, brown synthetic polymer paint "... M.JOHNSON 1965".


Credit

Gift of the artist 2014. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program


Location

Not on display


Accession number

194.2014


Artist information

Michael Johnson

Works in the collection

20


Place

Where the work was made
London

Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Referenced in 5 publications

Bibliography


Anna Johnson, Artist Profile, 'Michael Johnson', pg. 56-65, St Leonards, Feb 2016, 61.

Gavin Wilson, The artists of Hill End, 'The aura', pg. 97-112, Sydney, 1995, 101, 102 (colour illus.).

Michael Johnson: London, Sydney, New York. Paintings and works on paper 1960s & 1970s, Waterloo, 2014, 5 (colour illus.).

Michael Johnson paintings, Sydney, 1967, n.pag.. cat.no. 5

John Moores Liverpool exhibition 5, Liverpool, 1965-1966, n.pag.. cat.no. 85; incorrectly titled 'Sofarla'