Lisa Johnson graduated with honours from the Ontario College of Art and Design, where she also won the prestigious Mrs. W.O. Forsythe Award for 4th year women painters in 1996. Lisa Johnson’s work has been shown in solo and group shows throughout Ontario and she has over 200 works in private and corporate collections in U.S.A., Europe and Canada.
While Johnson was born in Toronto, her family’s roots in the shield country of North Frontenac – specifically Bon Echo, Mazinaw Lake — continue to serve as one of her prime sources of inspiration. Bon Echo is a stunning 100 meter pre-Cambrian cliff a mile long the rises straight from the dark waters of one of the deepest lakes in Ontario. This is a location that has drawn artists for centuries – from Algonquin artists who created pictographs along the meeting of rock and water, to the group of seven members who painted at this location during the heyday of the “Bon Echo Inn”. It is a magical Canadian landscape that Johnson sees as a powerful reminder of nature’s spirit and poetry and a potent muse for ongoing painterly enquiries.
An inspirational line can be drawn from Joyce Wieland, for whom Johnson worked while Joyce was preparing for her AGO retrospective in 1987. This led her to studies at the Ontario College of Art in Drawing and Painting. During her years at OCAD, she was particularly influenced by painting studies with Tom Dean (incidentally a sculptor) and drawing studies with Richard Robertson. During her late twenties Johnson lived and painted in a small town in Italy and spent a great deal of time studying the old masters in the galleries and churches of Rome and beyond.
Johnson’s interest in art history can also be seen in her work, as she draws upon the techniques of the old and new masters, from Rubens and Rembrandt to Soutine and Tom Thompson. While her gestural approach shows an affinity for action painting, she also draws on elements of a baroque aesthetic to add drama and emotion.
Lisa Johnson’s paintings enquire into space and movement within the context of landscape painting. Through her ethereal and sculpted pigment Johnson depicts vast landscapes where figures seem to poetically emerge. Drawing inspiration from on-location
studies to develop large studio works, her paintings weave geographic, corporeal, and abstract sensibilities through layers of atmospheric grounds and gestural mark-making. Her work speaks to the passage of time over an evolving landscape painted with
spirit and musicality.