Review / Johnson’s art captures a slow and pleasant seaside

art / “Colours of Cornwell” by Val Johnson, at Strathnairn Arts, Stockdill Drive, Holt, until August 19. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

‘Sea & Cornwall’, oil by Val Johnson

PAINTING and travel are in Val Johnson’s blood. The inspiration for most of her solo exhibitions comes from her love of travel and painting and it shows in her latest exhibition “Colours of Cornwell”.

The exhibition title certainly lives up to its name with its highly coloured artworks. This naive and colloquial art perfectly captures a slow and pleasant seaside village in Cornwell in England, but it comes from an artist who is anything but naive.

Ever since Johnson travelled there in 2010, these works had been simmering away in her mind. The whitewashed houses, long blue sky and colourful boats fill almost every work. However, these are not perfect pictures, but they capture the sense and style of Cornwell thoroughly. These artworks are instantly recognisable.

The laconic and laidback lifestyle that exists in Cornwell flows from every work. A hyper fast-paced place this is not. I can feel the slowness and steady rhythm of life, of the locals and their visitors who soon become acclimatised to the relaxed routines that exist there.

‘Calm waters Cornwall’, oil, by Val Johnson

Johnson, who admits to once having painted like the Scottish-born Australian representational painter Max Meldrum says today she is more about capturing the shapes rather than the actual look of the object.

“Why paint a tree that looks like a tree,” said Johnson, adding “I just have to change the shape of things; I can’t leave a wall or a road straight.”

There are several tiled mosaics in this exhibition, which again show the Cornwell coast. Mosaic is something that Johnson has been experimenting with for a little while, and these are quite quirky. They contain toy dogs, buttons and broken plates made to look like the hulls of fishing boats, even with names drawn on to them.

Johnson has been described as having itchy feet, a good sense of humour and a playful wickedness. Her “wicked” side can be seen in the many Bald Archy entries she has submitted to that most irreverent art prize that caricatures the famous, political and odd personalities of Australia. Johnson having been a finalist in that prize since 2009.

In every painting, the rendering of an excellent perspective is what stands out, no matter what size or shape the artwork is. This shows someone who understands form and design. Johnson’s playful artworks in this exhibition are a delight to the eyes.

A floor talk by Johnson will be held at Strathnairn Arts on August 11, at 2pm.


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