“If you can hold someone’s attention for more than just a few moments then you have achieved as an artist. On lengthier inspection they may love it, they may hate it and they may or may not understand it. But the thrill is to make them stop and stare.” says Johny.
Johny paints from his own life’s adventures, so if you connect with his work it is probably because you have been to the same places; sailed the same oceans or skied the same mountains.
His work has been described as “abstract on reality” and his paintings are easy to understand as there is no hidden agenda – he just asks you to look at things in new ways.
A photo can only ever give you a snapshot in time but Johny’s work can give you the changing light on a mountain from sunrise to sunset in one picture.
A brief background goes something like this: King James College Henley on Thames; Maidenhead Foundation Course; and London College of Printing for his BA Hons in Graphic Design, but he only stuck it out for two years because “I did not want to become a clone of the tutors.”
After a lot of to-and-fro between the French Alps and London, he finally settled in Chamonix beneath Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi.
At the time there was no art gallery for Johny to offer up his work to so, using the French word ‘entrepreneur’, he opened his own. The first gallery was a small shed-like affair in the car park of the Grand Montets. Eight years later Gallery Midnight was an established and welcomed part of downtown Chamonix life.
Apres ski at the gallery was often busier than some of the local bars and it was the only place in the Alps to find modern fine art of the Alps themselves. Johny declares “I can only paint what I have been a part of, so part of my job was to go skiing every day.”
The gallery closed for a year whilst the landlord made repairs, so via India, Johny ended up in the Caribbean on the island of St Lucia.
The year was spent portraying local life as well as the expat community. “My aim was to find the colours of the Caribbean without painting a coconut tree,” says Johny. The light and colour in his island work are uncomparable to his alpine paintings; so much so that you would be forgiven for thinking it was a different artist.
This is where Johny’s paintings come into their own. He explains “With each new subject I look for another way to paint. Everything has its own secret way it wants to be portrayed. Uncover that secret and you will find the subject allows you to paint it in the most favourable way.”
The year in the Caribbean was topped off with a sailing trip from St Lucia up to Anguilla and back down to Trinidad. It allowed him to fall back in love with the ocean (he grew up in Malta). He now sees his marine pictures becoming as much a part of his life as the mountains.
“When I arrived back in the UK five years ago to set up Gallery Midnight London, people could not understand why I would possibly swap Chamonix or the Caribbean for Balham.” If you look at Johny’s new work of Battersea Power Station, the Tooting Lido, Balham tube station, Bellvue or Ritherdon Road – it’s easy to see that he can find the fun and beauty in everything around him.
The charity ‘Caring Cancer Trust‘ is small but unique and I can see quite clearly where the money raised goes. For the last couple of years, they have asked me to go on their trips to teach children art.
The children always thank me for my time but really I learn so much more from them by the way they handle their lives, with such strength, up against such a rubbish disease as cancer.”
“So recently I exposed myself on a wall in South Kensington…. after having finished a large ski mural for the ski company Erna Low. I realised that Francis Bacon’s studio had been right next door, so to pay homage, I thought I would use the small space left to paint his portrait. This then became a real talking point on social media. Slightly annoying that people thought it was a Banksy!
The council were insisting that it should be painted over. But they have stopped insisting since it was featured on a BBC documentary about Francis Bacon himself (A Brush With Violence). The actor Terence Stamp, who was procured to talk about Bacon, seemed to find the portrait to be quite a likeness.”