Anthea Johnston

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Anthea Johnston’s work is vibrant, exceptionally detailed and beautifully executed. Influenced by the patterns and cycles in nature and her own heritage, Anthea’s quest for perfection in her work is obvious.Visit the QPOP UP Gallery in Kew to see her work firsthand …

Hi Anthea. Tell us a little about your history and what brought you to the Camden Haven area … 

I was a Northern Rivers girl in high school, in the small town of Dorrigo. I loved playing sport, with kayaking and swimming being my favourites. My love of art and photography developed here. My best mates and I were keen photographers, probably due to the lack of other artistic pursuits in the area at the time. We religiously documented our lives pre-Facebook days, and spent hours in the dark developing photographs. My preoccupation of focusing on the fine details began in the darkroom -peering through a focus scope to get perfect clarity. 

 After spending 18 years teaching art and photography in high schools in South-western Sydney, I was forced stop teaching due to back injuries sustained through a car accident. I have now had six surgeries on my spine, and I’m grateful to be walking.

I moved to the area with my son to be closer to my parents, who lived in the area.

What first led to you picking up a paintbrush? 

I started painting five or six years ago. I have spent many hours in rehabilitation after surgery, and painting is a way of escaping the pain; it is like meditation, in a way. Focusing on the beauty that I can create is my wholistic healing. I feel inspired to push through and complete the painting, no matter how tedious it sometimes becomes – seeking perfection; the results are worth it. 

Why do you paint these days … what motivates you? 

I love William Morris’ designs from the arts and crafts movement. My work is an attempt to reflect the harmony within nature, and create art and designs that could easily be repeated forever like Morris’ wallpapers. Illuminated manuscripts have always fascinated me with their ornate decoration and bright colours and fine, fine details. I can see these techniques used again and again in my work. 

Your artistic style is unique! It contains elements of Aboriginal storytelling, and the patterns are very intricate and striking. What methods (and tools) do you use to produce your work? 

My ancestral home is the Kamillaroi Nation. I am a part of the Stolen Generation; my grandmother was taken from her mother and raised in the Benevolent Socity in Sydney. She did not tell my father of her heritage.

I use techniques similar to many Aboriginal artists, with dots and repeated patterns. The inspiration to make each work uniquely beautiful and representative of nature comes from my heritage. 

I use fine script brushes and plain old wooden skewers to paint with. The medium of casein paint is used for its archival and colour fast qualities. I paint on paper only, and need to frame my work on completion. I do not use traditional symbols and stories in my work, as I have not as yet been taught by my elders. 

What are some of the subjects you most like to paint/draw? 

I have used the subject matter of my own garden for my art work. The differing phases of growth and the unseen energy created fascinate me. Nature’s life cycle is fragile and everlasting. These delicacies influence the way I paint and the colours I use. 

Who/what do you feel has most honed your skill as an artist over the years? 

Skill is always the result of persistence. The want to create a feeling as well as a beautiful image is essential in my work. I try to create a sense of tranquillity, as if no man can influence the strength of nature. Through observation and patience, my desired results have revealed themselves. 

What exhibitions are you currently a part of/do you have coming up? 

I am currently on exhibition at the QPOP UP Gallery, 148 Nancy Bird Walton Drive, Kew, NSW 2439. An upcoming exhibition of my newest work can be seen at Long Point Vineyard and Art Gallery, Lake Cathie NSW.

What would you most like to achieve in 2019? 

My main goal as an artist for 2019 is to enter a few major art competitions and get as much exposure for my work as possible. As an artist, I am terrible at marketing myself and get lost in the art making instead.

Where can we see more examples of or purchase your work? 

My work can be seen online on the QPOPUP Gallery website. My contact details are antheajohnston@hotmail.com for anyone who has any queries.

Thanks Anthea. 

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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