Eriks Johnson, Milwaukee artist, Kicks Off the North High Art Department’s 2010-2011 Artist Lecture Series

On Tuesday, October 19, Eriks Johnson kicked off the NHS’s Artist Lecture Series with a box full of art, a rolled canvas, and a laptop. Eriks is an artist and a teacher. He currently teaches at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, has taught for AWE (Artist Working in Education) and participated in IN:SITE, a resource for temporary public art in Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.

Eriks Johnson

Artist Statement

Currently my interests have been to restrict some of the variables in my paintings. Primarily I have been reducing the amount of color that I use, this emphasizes other aspects of the painting and I think makes more apparent the decisions in the mark making procedures and therefore the thought process of the painting. Patterns: organic, inorganic, clumsy, sometimes graceful are the main motif of the work. It is important that it is obvious that they are painted by hand. I want the viewer to know that a human being is unavoidably behind the work.

I have also been more conscientious about the use of materials.  Instead of making them more lavish I have been paring them down, using more recycled, found or inherited materials in the paintings. I like to think that I have become a hunter/gatherer when it comes to getting my paints and surfaces. Primarily I aim to avoid materials that we take for granted as making art, what I mean by that is materials that, as soon as they are used we know art is being made. For the time being I am also avoiding stretching the paintings. Larger stretched canvases are cumbersome, I cannot take them camping, the edges are hard, and they take up more space. I like to sit in my paintings while I work on them.

Objects from non-western, non-industrialized societies have become a primary source of inspiration. Specifically, living in America, has made me interested in cultures that are indigenous to this area and whom the land influenced all aspects of culture, from lifestyle, to the language, to what we would call art and spirituality as well. I envy the sense of connection I feel that exists in those works and that I feel for those works. Art and life are not separated. To me, traditional representational painting, being a representation, in a framed square with the use of perspective, in a museum seems at times to just create a longer and longer tube through which one observes the world.

The first goal of my work is to feel a connection from making them. The concentration and relative freedom of the decision-making process are very appealing to me. Primarily I work intuitively with a few parameters in mind before I start. I try to balance the constant and repetition of a pattern against the variations and incidental aspects that allow it to grow turn into various forms. When I am painting I remember the rivers I have kayaked, the birds I have seen and the trees I have hid behind when hunting deer. The more beautiful the pieces turn out the happier I am with them. When someone else finds them beautiful I am happy as well.

The Artist Lecture Series is an in-school program that invites local and regional visual artists to share with the art classes about their journey as artists. Topics that are discussed are such as but not limited to: education, discipline, determination, time management., conservation of materials, and accountability.

©2010-2011 All images copyrighted by Mr. Frank Juarez. All rights reserved.

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