August 2024

The Lens Of My Brain

Chris JohansonChris JohansonChris JohansonChris JohansonChris JohansonChris JohansonChris JohansonChris Johanson Text: Tristan Ceddia Images: Chris Johanson & Tobin Yelland

Known for beautifully uncomplicated paintings and drawings, Chris Johanson is a name synonymous with modern art in America. Showing in Sydney this month as a part of the Disorder Disorder show at Penrith Regional gallery, Tristan Ceddia catches Chris for a very rare, very brief interview.

Tristan Ceddia: Were you artistic as a child?

Chris Johanson: I was artistic as a child and my art has some of the same characteristics from then.

TC: You emerged as an artist in San Francisco in the early ’90s alongside contemporaries Barry McGee and Jo Jackson. What do you feel was fueling your art at this time?

The wild streets of San Francisco, the oh yeah’s, the he she’s, the hahaha’s, the oh no’s, the fuck it’s!

TC: At this time, like minded artists were surfacing across America. Whose work was really exciting you?

CJ: Everyone who did not want a full time job, everyone who wanted to question authority.

TC: The ‘Mission School’ term was not in use until 2003. Do you feel it is a relevant description for what was happening there, or was the term coined for the convenience of the media?

CJ: Writing for different magazines and papers, philosophy in general was discussed a lot. No people were working in advertising at all. That was not connected to anything at all, to anyone. We were freaks. The Mission School thing does not describe the situation at all.

The scene in the Mission District was a lot of politically left people working within all mediums. Painters, filmmakers, poets, people.

TC: What were you doing prior to working as an artist?

CJ: I always made art. I paid rent first working in cafes, then painting or working on houses.

TC: Do the stories in your art draw from your day-to-day observations of the human race?

CJ: I am a people watcher, everything I make is just through the lens of my brain.

TC: You now live in Portland, Oregon. What attracted you to this part of America?

CJ: It is cheap and so am I!

TC: What does a typical day in your life involve… are you making art every day?

CJ: We eat food from our garden and ride bikes around, we make things a lot but not all the time, play music with friends and tend to the garden.

TC: You visited Melbourne twice to show with Misha Hollenbach as a part of his Pot O’ Gold exhibitions. How did you become involved with these shows?

CJ: Misha and Shauna rule. We wear PAM clothes, we dig their scene, that is why I came there.

TC: Do you have thoughts of visiting Australia again?

CJ: I try not to travel, I pretty much just like to ride my bike around and look for scraps of wood.

TC: What excites you most about showing art?

CJ: I have shown my art all over the place, I like to connect with people and make peaceful art and try and make a serene situation for people through art.

TC: What are you going to do after you answer these questions?

CJ: Right after this I am going to scan something and send it to John Cardiel, then I am going to kiss my sweet lady and hit the hay.

Chris Johanson

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