Signature Field 1, 2013

This is a fairly close-up detail of an acrylic paint pen drawing, Signature Field 1, from 2013. In that year I made a small series of Signature Field drawings/paintings in which I repeatedly scrawled my signature all over large sheets of black paper like this. Signature Field 1 was shown in the inaugural Parkin Drawing Prize exhibition in Wellington in 2013. I’ve been interested in using signatures, those often lauded marks of artistic authenticity and branding, for a long time. No doubt I’ll return to “the artist’s signature" again at some stage. This series of work really continues a thread I pursued for a few years and quite a few exhibitions in Australia in the mid to late 1990s. The work involved using my signature in various ways, including on generic products for sale as part of art installations (along with videos aping infomercials), as giant computer cut vinyl lettering, and eventually across giant inkjet-print-on-canvas banknotes and novelty bank cheques. Growing up in New Zealand, I was well aware of Billy Apple’s (#billyapple, @billyapplecider, @maryandbillyapple) early and ongoing work with signature and artist-as-brand. In the 1990s the international art market was expanding rapidly, so this kind of work seemed all the more relevant to me. That work was in many ways a response to his. In hindsight, perhaps New Zealand may have been a more appropriate place to try and present that work, but I was living in Sydney at the time, working part-time at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and completing a Master’s at Sydney College of the Arts, so it made sense to show it in Australia. Still, it seemed quite out of step to what was being made in Oz at the time, which I didn't mind. #painting #drawing #contemporaryart #signature #brand #nzart

A post shared by John Johnston (@jjprojects) on

Oil Painting (detail), 2014

Friendly Frigidaire, 1992

From the dusty slide archives, in a time before web. This is a work made in 1992 while still at Ilam art school: Friendly Frigidaire, comprised of fridge condensers and gas bottles. I remember that the hole in the ozone layer (periodically over NZ) was big environmental news around that time, with chlorofluorocarbons in refrigerants and aerosols being a significant cause of the problem. Thanks to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, CFCs have been progressively banned internationally since then. I remember I was kind of obsessed with @ashleybickerton's “commercial pieces” and “Anthropospheres” around that time, as well as having a fondness for minimalist sculpture. Part of this "A Comfortable Environment" series was shown as part of a small group show at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery the following year, curated by William McAloon (RIP), but not this particular piece installed at the Ilam Campus Gallery in '92. #sculpture #contemporaryart #nzart #installationart

A post shared by John Johnston (@jjprojects) on

Reading: The Andy Warhol Diaries

Finally finished The Andy Warhol Diaries, reading at a leisurely pace while reading other books. While reading it I realised just how much the publishing of his magazine, Interview, was integral to his life and other work during the 70s and 80s. Although his dairies were private until published in 1989, it also struck me how similar in nature and tone they are to contemporary long-running reality shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Also made me think about social media as a public form of diary these days. I'm glad I read the book in 2017, with nearly 3 decades of distance from publishing. I'd say it's going to seem more fascinating the more time goes by, like a time capsule. It has a lot to say about high society New York life in the 1970s and 80s, not to mention fame and money. #contemporaryart #warhol #book #andywarhol #diaries #diary

A post shared by John Johnston (@jjprojects) on

Reading: Tell Them I Said No