Amanda Johnson is a painter and and writer from the Bellarine, originally from Melbourne. Her art work has been shown in Australia and overseas. In recent years she has exhibited extensively at the Geelong Gallery where she has been repesented in group shows, and in the Geelong Contemporary Art Prize (2012) and the Fletcher Jones Prize (2006) respectively. She was awarded the Darebin Art Prize Best Emerging Artist Award in 2008. She has a masters in painting from Victorian College of the Arts (1994-5) and completed her undergraduate training at RMIT (1989-92). During this period she worked extensively as a professional set and costume designer, from MTC to La Mama theatres.
Since graduating she has been the recipient of Asialink and Arthur Boyd Bundanon residencies for painting (See CV for exhibitions history). In 2010 she was awarded a Janet Holmes a Court Artist’s Award with fellow RMIT alumnis Michele Burder. This grant contributed to the making of a large exhibition (Geelong Gallery 2010) and the commissioning of catalogue by Dr Paul Fox for the exhibition Understorey: Botanic Gardens, Past, Present, Future – from Civic Vision to Climate Change (Geelong Gallery 2010). The exhibition toured to regional Victoria’s Woodbine Art in 2011.
Amanda Johnson is also a well-known novelist and poet, publishing as A. Frances Johnson. Her writing overlaps with many of art-historical, postcolonial themes found in her art. Her 2007 novel Eugene’s Falls (Arcadia) retraced the so-called ‘wilderness’ journeys of colonial painter Eugene von Guerard across Taungurong country in The Great Divide. Amanda completed her PhD thesis (the University of Melbourne) on the representation of Indigenous voices in Australian historical novels (1989–2006). She has since published several books of poetry: The Pallbearer’s Garden (Whitmore Press 2008), and The Wind-up Birdman of Moorabool Street (Puncher and Wattmann 2012) – recently awarded the 2012 Wesley Michel Wright Prize. Her poetry has appeared in many anthologies, including Motherlode: Australian Womens Poetry 1986-2006, and Best Australian Poems 2009, 2010 and 2011 (Black Inc.). She currently works as a lecturer in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. From 2006-2008 she contributed regular art reviews to The Age’s ‘Sightlines’ column.
GEELONG PRIZE 2012: ARTIST’S STATEMENT
SUPPORTED EXOTIC: DRACEANA DRACO (DRAGON TREE)
My recent paintings question the fate of the regional Victorian botanical garden in a context of global warming. How has our physical and cultural encounter with the public garden changed? Has the picturesque garden subject (as landscape vista, folly, or symbol of civic confidence) been relegated to expressions of cultural nostalgia as environmental problems take their toll?
I paint images of ‘supported exotics’ within Botanic Garden walls, such as the Geelong Gardens Dragon Tree. The Dragon Tree Dracaena draco, was transplanted from within the gardens, and stands in pride of place because it was planted in 1851 by the first curator Daniel Bunce.
I also paint extinct or threatened plants such as the recently rediscovered Dwarf Spider Orchid (Caladenia pumila). My ‘paper documents’ on canvas are replete with stains, watermarks and foxing mould copied from deteriorated botanical documentations. Painterly parodies of ‘first contact’ drawings suggest the melancholy possibility of last contact, while evocations of Victorian garden subjects (after William Guilfoyle and others) are remade as a futuristic revisiting of the botanical archive.