All posts in drawing

Signature Cluster (Black & White), 2017

Work In Progress – Video

Signature Cluster, 2012

In 2012 I made 3 of these small Signature Cluster paintings. As the title suggests, they were made simply by writing my signature multiple times in clusters. I’ve worked with signatures, the often lauded marks of artistic authenticity and branding, periodically for a a long time. I’ve signed generic products for sale as part of installations (along with videos aping infomercials), made giant signatures with computer cut vinyl lettering, printed signatures across large inkjet-on-canvas banknotes, and scrawled signatures repeatedly across large sheets of black paper to resemble landscapes. I’ll work with “the artist’s signature” again at some stage. Signature Cluster Oil stick and acrylic on canvas 40.5cm x 30.5cm – #contemporaryart #artgram #art #painting #drawing #nzart #artwork #artist #signature

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Signature Field 1 (detail), 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

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Review Of My Work In The Fringe

Artist of the Month - John Johnston

I’m happy to have had the following article written about my work for the September issue of local magazine, The Fringe. Thanks to Naomi McCleary for her interest in the work.

The Fringe, September 2013

Artist of the Month – John Johnston

John Johnston came to my attention as one of three Titirangi-based finalists in the inaugural Parkin Drawing Award, won by another Titirangi resident, Monique Jansen. The generous prize of $20,000 certainly brings focus to what judge Heather Galbraith describes as ‘one of our most ancient tools of communication, yet still incredibly relevant.’ The award attracted 800 submissions.

John Johnston creates work of mesmerising textural depth. His work for the Parkin Award, Signature Field 1, also has a fabric-like quality and a visit to his website ( reveals wonderfully strong graphic images with delicate detailing. I particularly like his ‘Requiem for Hotere’ and works with more than a passing nod to McCahon’s waterfalls.

John has made a career as a digital designer, art director and social media consultant and is the founder of a popular sustainability-oriented blog, After his early years in Christchurch where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours), he went on to complete a Master of Visual Arts (University of Sydney). In 2011 he returned from Australia and big city life to Titirangi, chosen for its long and strong legacy of artists and its proximity to bush and beach. With this move has come a return to making and exhibiting art and plans to continue this for the rest of his life.

Currently he is the generator of a ‘poster project‘ in which large paste-up images of one of his paintings, Downfall, based on McCahon’s waterfalls, are appearing on walls and billboards in deconstructed and reassembled collages. This is guerilla art at its best; temporary, intriguing, leaving no trace. For John, this project takes his work outside the gallery scene and into a non-arts domain. Further ideas to work in public space are emerging.

John Johnston is but one of a new generation of artists drawn to Titirangi. For the early artists who made their homes in these hills, it was often an escape from a judgmental and unrelenting society. Today’s artists come for its physical beauty and sustaining arts tradition and culture.

Naomi McCleary