Michael Johnson, McMahon's Point, Sydney

David Moore1969 (printed 2000)

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery
Canberra, Australia

Michael Johnson (b. 1938) is a Sydney painter. He studied at the National Art School in the 1950s before moving to London and the United States. He has taught at a number of art schools and had a great many solo and group shows in Australia and overseas. In 1980-81 he collaborated with Robert Klippel on a spraypainted steel sculpture project. He has explained that his paintings will not tolerate the idea of a picture; they 'just won't let it in', because they are 'preoccupied with the spectacular process of their own formation'.

Michael Johnson has explained his experience of painting in this way:
Putting down a colour, the first thing you do is oppose it with another colour or give it some kind of sympathy . . . The choice of colour is an emotional decision which is hard to account for, but it's related to a physical phenomenon, to a canvas or a piece of paper
. . . You start with the experience of the bare gesso, the primed canvas, and that is sublime. That is meditation itself . . . If you're playing a musical instrument, because it's so close to the body, it's not like painting, where you've got to go to the box to pick up some paint. In a way I try to reduce all that by mixing colour on the surface . . . I don't see any difference between the spirit of music and the spirit of painting. Not so much painting, but colours . . . I'm interested in colour divorced of its physical body.


  • Title: Michael Johnson, McMahon's Point, Sydney
  • Creator: David Moore
  • Date Created: 1969 (printed 2000)
  • Provenance: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
  • Rights: https://www.portrait.gov.au/form-image-request.php
  • External Link: https://www.portrait.gov.au/portraits/2001.67

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