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Australian art

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Quasar I



Michael Johnson


1938 -


The light and openness of the Australian environment had a profound impact on Michael Johnson's practice when he returned from New York in 1975. Johnson's paintings of the early to mid-1980s in particular demonstrated a freer application of oil paint in 'pure colour' and a tempering of the hard-edged forms that had characterised his imagery throughout the 1970s. The visual vitality of Johnson's 'Quasar' 1984 series was due in part to the 'tension' of their painterly fields of colour and the play of suspended horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines.

Commenting on their origins, Johnson has said that: 'I went into this funny period where I recalled my childhood with Quasars - I don't know what the diagonals are about - but it was a funny period where, without being figurative, I was trying to get a feel of association with experience. Not place' [1]. According to curator Barry Pearce their schismatic compositions were a 'metaphor of earth, sea, sky' which also served as a template for Johnson's pictures thereafter [2].

1. Michael Johnson quoted in Barry Pearce, Michael Johnson, Beagle Press, 2004, p 18
2. Ibid p 100




Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


182.7 x 122.5 x 2.5 cm stretcher

Signature & date

Signed and dated u.r. verso on stretcher, black oil "Michael Johnson 1984".


Gift of Michael and Margo Johnson 2015. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Michael Johnson

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 publications


Annette Larkin Fine Art, Michael Johnson: Diagonal light: works from 1980-1986., Waterloo, 2014, 2 (colour illus.).

Terence Maloon, Michael Johnson paintings 1968-1986, Parkville, Aug 1986, 27, 33. 7

Paul McGillick, The subject of painting: twelve Australian painters, Sydney, 1985. 36

Barry Pearce, Michael Johnson, Sydney, 2004, 52-53, 92,199. plate no. 27