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Neil Johnston

Century College
White Bear Lake

Leaf Pattern Abstraction #1

Leaf Pattern Abstraction #1 (2007), acrylic and oil on canvas, 72" x 96"

Artist Statement

I am interested in how people notice, interact with, and recall their immediate environment. I remember places that I visited in my past because something in my present sparks that distant vision or memory. I believe this is the power of imagery, and to some extent, the reason why I paint. Being attentive to these sparks often set me on the path to remembering. This work presents some "sparks" as layers of naturally occurring, fractal-like patterns. I collect these patterns from my experience with nature, and they are common to my Minnesota experience: tree canopy leaf patterns. I find that reproducing these patterns reminds me of those places.

I collect various data at the site: temperature, GPS coordinates on a map, vocal journal recordings, photographs, and video to catalog my experience. This data is presented as part of the paintings in an on-line database or printed as a didactic. The painting and the data exist in the space as a re-presentation of that place, a type of landscape. I paint the leaf patterns from these specific places. The natural abstraction of the leaf pattern merely suggests another place and does not appear to be specific. The titles of the paintings and data help to ground these paintings, to place them in the context of a larger landscape. I see these paintings as an exploration of the micro and macro concept of place, memory, and how mapping helps us to find our way. I am not interested in communicating my specific memory of these places; rather I am intrigued by how these images make people imagine the places, to fabricate a memory, possibly to imagine a landscape. These paintings present a glimpse, and a specific place on a map, and the narrative develops in the mind of the viewer.

Teaching Statement

Leaf Pattern Abstraction #2

Leaf Pattern Abstraction #2 (2007), acrylic and oil on canvas, 72" x 96"

I believe that my teaching practice is informed by the inquisitive nature of my working process. As a matter of principle, I try not to paint statements, rather I prefer to present questions with my work. I use my creative working process to unravel and explore topics of interest to me and to discover the world. Through my personal development of a thoughtful and attentive process, I hope to show my students that they can explore anything through art making. It is my intent to model this attitude to my students.

I teach Painting 1, Drawing 1, Art History of the Western World 1 & 2, and 2D Design at Century College in White Bear Lake, MN. In addition to my teaching career, I maintain an active studio practice. My work is collected regionally, and is in the local corporate collections of Medtronic, Inc., Hines International, Inc., and Orfield Laboratories.

Additional works on display:

45 03'17.70"nx93 08'01.6"w (2011), acrylic on board, 48" x 32"

45 02'57.71"n x 93 05'44.58"w (2011), acrylic on board, 48" x 32"

45 03' 17.80"n x 93 08'00.2"w (2011), acrylic on board, 24" x 48"

45 03'23.85n x 93 05'58.38w (2012), acrylic on board, 72" x 32"