112 Helen Johnson: Backs of the Paintings.
I also want to talk a little bit about the backs of the paintings because I make these paintings that hang free in space. Part of the reason I do that is because I like the idea of them acting as dividers and objects in space as well as image surfaces. And that you can never get them and read the different surfaces and read the edges, the moments where they almost disappear and circumnavigate them. I also like the slight awkwardness they have as objects in space, there is a floppiness and weirdness about them that makes them less declarative than a stretched painting on a wall.
So the backs of the paintings become like a space for footnotes or just ideas that orbited around the production of the painting but didn’t end up belonging on the surface of it. And I like the idea that sometimes what’s on the back can unpack an image that’s on the front or augment it or sometimes it’s just something tangential and I enjoy observing people in the space when I exhibit works like this. People will often circle around from the front to the back then back around to the front and read the front of the painting anew in relation to what they have seen on the back. I think that temporal aspect is really interesting and it’s something that I sort of aim for with the fronts of the paintings as well.
The initial encounter is never the whole thing but other fragments of image keep emerging and disrupting what you think you’ve seen. And I’m really drawn to the kinds of reading this produces because it means the paintings refuse a clean, linear reading. You’re constantly having your perception disrupted by another part of another image that encroaches on what you were looking at before. Its’ constantly sort of rerouting and redirecting your eyes and your mind and I’m interested in this as a way of thinking about history the way that it gets constructed and there’s this tendency on certain levels for history to be constructed in a linear way and that we’re told theses narratives as if they’re the whole truth but they never are. And I think it’s really important to question and disrupt the way that we think about the past and the relation we have to it.