Since its establishment in 1984, the Charles Nodrum Gallery’s exhibition program embraces a diversity of media and styles - from painting, sculpture & works on paper to graphics and photography; from figurative, geometric, gestural, surrealist & social comment to installation & conceptually based work.
— Biography of George Johnson
“[Johnson] is one of Australia’s most committed and consistent abstractionists. His paintings are tough and uncompromising and possess a forceful clarity that promises those infinite relational variations which are both the essence and the lure of abstraction…” Jenny Zimmer, 2006
Born in New Zealand in 1926, Johnson was, together with Gordon Walters, a protege of Theo Schoon who introduced the Bauhaus, De Stijl, Constructivist and Suprematist movements to the pair. He moved to Melbourne in 1951, sharing a studio with Walters. He held his first solo exhibition in 1956 and was included in the touring Pacific Loan Exhibition of the same year. Abstraction in 1950s Melbourne was not easily accepted and Johnson and his peers battled for ground against those who reacted against it, including The Antipodeans. Johnson’s early works, made in a context of post-war material scarcity as well as a spirit of ‘make-do’ experimentation, are characterised by heavily textured surfaces - often employing collaged Hessian and house-paint enamel on Masonite board – and organic, interlocking cog-wheel forms. The 1970s ushered in a series known as The Brown Paintings or Peruvian Paintings after a trip there in 1972; and from the 1980s onwards, his paintings and drawings consistently explore the infinite variations on the triangle, rectangle, circle and line - chiefly in primary colours.
"[Painting] is my way of seeing life, relationships, and things around me creatively - my way of seeking a creative world. I enjoy looking into, under, further, in search of the vital organic life force in all things. It is my way of imposing a sense of order which I find necessary." The Artist, 1975
Johnson is represented in all major Australian public galleries and institutional collections.
A major retrospective exhibition of his work was held at Ballarat Fine Art Gallery in 2002 and a monograph was published in 2006: Christopher Heathcote, George Johnson — World View, MacMillan, Melbourne, 2006.
“Ralph Balson, Godfrey Miller, John Passmore, Yvonne Audette, William Rose, Ian Fairweather, Roger Kemp, Leonard Crawford, Leonard French, Howard Taylor, George Johnson, and a few others constituted a formidable contingent who together produced one of the most consistent and coherent expressions of modernism in Australia. Eccentric – and frequently self-isolated – they believed in the possibility oof creating non-objective structures capable of communicating universal ideas. Each at that time sought an idealised world-view – spiritual or political – rather than the more personally expressive Abstract Expressionism which in the 1940s and 1950s captured an increasing number of adherents and would divide the abstraction movement here – as it did in America.” Jenny Zimmer, “George Johnson and Geometric Abstraction”, in Christopher Heathcote, George Johnson - World View, MacMillan, Melbourne, 2006, p 33
“His abstraction is still as strict and as sharp as ever, but is of that rare type which, whilst sticking to severe limits in shapes and tonings, offers an apparently limitless range of variation." Bill Hannan, exhibition review, The Bulletin, 1962