When I saw American art I discovered scale. I realised that you had to go big to create impact with colour. A spot of red on a dirty grey is all very well in Sickert, or a yellow highlight on a sleeve in Sargent, but it was not enough for an artist in the sixties. Michael Johnson
When Michael Johnson was working in London in the early 1960s he first encountered the full force of large-scale American post-war abstract painting. These were works of an expansive abstraction and paintings that boldly declared a driving artistic conviction in the expressive force of colour and form alone. The impact of such works on Johnson’s practice was profound.
Anna is amongst the earliest of Johnson’s responses to the artistic epiphany of American abstraction. The work’s title (later the name of the artist’s daughter) refers to the visual palindrome of its composition, the symmetry of reversible forms and colour that Johnson also spoke of in relation to the “yin/yang single line coming back on itself of a tennis ball.” Through this simple, compelling composition, colour assumes a bold new entity in Johnson’s work. “I wanted immersion rather than observation” he claimed of such paintings. With its single organic shape of balanced movement creating a void-like centre and assimilating colour, there is an absorbing quality to the grand-scale abstraction of Anna. The work is indicative of the dazzling new forms of Johnson’s abstraction that he first exhibited in Sydney when he returned to Australia in 1967.
PVA on canvas
218.0 x 417.0 cm
Patrick White Bequest Fund 2018
Not on display
© Michael Johnson. Licensed by Copyright Agency