Painted Leaves Sarah Anne Johnson

September 8, 2015 - May 1, 2016

Sarah Anne Johnson, Painted Leaves, 2015, chromogenic print with oil paint, printed on acrylic billboard, 72” x 108”. Image courtesy of the artist and Blackwood Gallery..

Every fall the Blackwood Gallery commissions an artist to produce a work for the Bernie Miller Lightbox, a billboard sized (108" x 72") venue installed on the outside of the William Davis Building (formerly known as South Building) where the two wings of the building meet at the end of the "Five Minute Walk". The commissioned work stays throughout the school year.

Painted Leaves is commissioned by Director/Curator Christine Shaw for the exhibition The pen moves across the earth: it no longer knows what will happen, and the hand that holds it has disappeared. on view from September 16 – November 29, 2015.


Special Event

Sarah Anne Johnson will speak about her practice at Running with Concepts: The Geologic Edition taking place at the Blackwood Gallery November 28 – 29. This two-day hybrid event is part colloquium, part workshop, part performance, and part experiment. For more information on the conference, please click here.

Project Description

Sarah Anne Johnson’s Painted Leaves presents a detail of a photographic landscape overlaid with myriad fine details, earthly colours, and mystical light. Oil paint has been hand applied to a chromogenic print of an understory of leaves in a temperate coniferous forest. The leaves are marked with decorative motifs in sunflower yellow, marine blue, flame orange, and brushed gold. Yet the image is an overture to humanity’s thoughtless imprint on the landscape.

The Anthropocene is an epoch where there are more trees growing in farms than in the wild, where more rock and soil is moved by bulldozers and mining than all ‘natural’ processes combined, and where the climate is tipping out of control due to the burning of oil, gas, and coal. Industrial capitalism is irreversibly altering the natural cycles of the biosphere; nature is now a product of culture. At the same time, carefully contrived patches of ‘nature’ lie open to the sky and to a multitude of uses and meanings in our urban landscapes. Flora is tamed and groomed into domestic symbols, civic showplaces, and national icons. In the age of the Anthropocene, many of us are sensing, as Ivan Illich called it, “the shadows our future throws.” These shadows are profoundly shifting our perceptions and yet many of our behaviours seem little changed. Johnson’s disturbance of the surface of the photographic image attempts to find the shape of hope in the shadows.

Artist Biography

Winnipeg-based artist Sarah Anne Johnson was trained as a photographer but uses a variety of media including painting, sculpture, and performance. She received a BFA from the University of Manitoba and completed an MFA at the Yale School of Art. Earlier this year Johnson debuted her first mid-career retrospective, Sarah Anne Johnson: Wonderland, 2002-2014, at The Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh and unveiled a 144 foot photographic mural at the Westin Harbour Castle Conference Centre commissioned by Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival. She has been collected by several significant institutions including The Guggenheim Museum, The National Gallery of Canada, New York Library, and The Phillips Collection. She has participated in group exhibitions at The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, The Canadian Biennial at the National Gallery of Canada, The Guggenheim Museum, The National Gallery of Victoria, and La Fondation Cartier in Paris. In 2008 Johnson was the recipient of the inaugural Aimia Prize for Contemporary Photography and is a finalist for the 2015 Sobey Art Award. She is represented by Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto and Julie Saul Gallery in New York.

Installation Views