A Change of Pace
By Michelle Lepori
Rancho Cucamonga has an extraordinary gift in the form of local family man, teacher and artist Brian Johnson. He is a boundless resource of creativity and production, always creating new and imaginative art. His beautiful paintings and illustrations are “mini worlds” within themselves; worlds that seem endless and all-encompassing. Each canvas is like a virtual black hole—a vortex of power and emotion that sucks you in. Multiple washes of color layer to create illusions of realistic objects and scenes but they remain abstract. His moleskin sketchbook is filled with black penned conglomerations of machine wear morphing into nature, architecture and body parts. Johnson’s art designs encourage the viewer to slow down and take notice of the indefinable and humbly marvelous.
In a nod to the well known painter, Salvador Dali, Johnson’s latest artworks explore the concept of abstract landscapes and the functions of space. Using quirky color palettes, his art pops forward and fades into backgrounds of organic shapes and angles. These paintings look like reflections in a body of water or clouds across the sky; you might just be able to see the glimmering lights of a hillside city at night or lightning bolts streaking across blackened forest tree tops. The illusions are there and what is seen is left to the viewer to define.
Johnson shares about his latest creations, “The paintings and drawings that I am currently working on are not traditional representational landscapes. However, to some, they may show some realistic imagery,” he says. “For me though, I would say they are more reactionary works to various environments I see and remember. They are intuitive experiences.”
Intuition must have led him to the newest trend in the art world, fixed-gear culture. He recently introduced his first “art bike” which is a collaboration with the Venice Beach fixed-gear bicycle company, Solé. This bicycle taps into the current “fixie” trend and the transformation of bicycle culture into vehicles of creative expression.
As a child of the late ‘80s, early ‘90s skateboard scene, he understands the importance of subculture style. He was able to pull from this and his educational background in illustration to create a blend of modern and traditional graphics. His artwork here, resembles the old school legendary Phillip’s family deck designs of skateboard brand, “Santa Cruz.” The pioneers of cool, personal, anti-style of the skate culture is notable in Johnson’s art bike collaboration.
Johnson’s transformative style is unique. Tiny hand painted details stare out from the Solé, “Palarmara” fixie bike frame; silver barked tree branches with flaming red leaves merge into aqua blue waves with golden encrusted eye balls. Lava, sea foam and skeletons create a second look inducing, movable work of art.
Brian Johnson, teaches art at a local Orange County High School and is enrolled in the MFA program at CSUF. Talking about his artistic motivations he shares the secrets for success, “Being a husband, a dad and working full time while doing a Masters Fine Arts degree full time, leaves me very little time to get out and experience art face to face. However I do from time to time. I love the Culver City area galleries. They are all easily accessible, and there is always an opening.”
Seeing art in neighboring communities has inspired him as well as the interaction with local art students and teachers. “I love being in grad school too and having the dialogue with fellow artists. That is invaluable. CSUF has been very good to me both professionally and personally over the years. The faculty there is very encouraging and helpful.”
Recently Johnson felt a major shift in his life after the death of his father. In his honor, it prompted in him the need to make some personal changes. Johnson remembers, “To him, to work, meant having a purpose on this earth” But it was also important that he, “analyze more, stop and take breaths.” He realized, “I needed to slow down my life and the speed on which I viewed things.”
The unique art of Brian Johnson encourages quiet thoughtfulness and inquisitive nature. “It can get pretty rural out there in the IE. It is easy to find space. It is a good reminder that we live among nature and that is not something we should ever forget.” Once you see the paintings of local artist, Brian Johnson, we bet you won’t forget either.