Meet the Artist: Bambi Johnson
We've been a big fan of Bambi Johnson for years. Her work is soft and interesting and she's always popping up in cool places. We had the chance to chat to her about what it means to be an artist, the progression of her work and what super power she could have.
Tell us about your work.
I work across a variety of tactile mediums from soft sculpture to illustration and print media.
My sculptural forms, which are translated into 2D prints, are the tangible embodiment of fleeting or stagnant thought. At times I work towards a very specific spectre that tend to glut my thoughts irregularly and at other times I allow the materials and my hands to guide formation. The results whether premeditated or not, aren’t discernible from one another. The commonalities of form and texture reminiscent of the body and flesh are constant and unwavering and I believe that comes back to my methodologies being drawn out of memories and experiences of the female body, both as an observer and through my own embodiment.
I use passive materials of: wax, twine, panty hose and clay most often to create suggestive forms.
Likewise the motifs of my illustrations always suggest some relationship with womanhood although this is not so obvious.
On the lighter side, you can find references to pop culture of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s in my work. Films or music feature as subtle nuances that reverberate throughout my work and emerge predominately as titles. These are really the backdrop that reference back to a certain time and memory and that’s why I refer to my work being mnemonic in nature. If you take for instance my Flesh Fur Fantasy series, that title is a play on Billy idols: Flesh For Fantasy. Lets Tit Together: another title, references Brian Ferry’s Lets stick together and so on…
Why did you become an artist?
I don’t think I became an artist, I just realized at some point that it was an irrevocable part of me.
It did take me many years to get comfortable referring to myself as an artist because that term is often misunderstood and shrouded in misconception.
Where do you make your art, and how long is the process for you?
Always within the privacy of my home. It depends what medium I’m working with. An illustration either in ink or graphite can take a week or months on end. My sculptural prints are usually weeks in the making from original sculpture to print.
How does living and working in Melbourne influence your work?
I’m really not conscious of the effect being Melbournian has upon my work but I know it must in some way, I just haven’t reached into that side of my practice.
Who or what do you turn to for inspiration on days when creativity just isn’t flowing?
I’m very fortunate to have not found myself in that situation. Jinx!
How has your work changed over time? Do you have any pieces that you look back on and think, “OMG what was I doing?!”
Absolutely I have those moments! Mostly when I look back at the work I created pre-tertiary or in the first year of study. When I look at them its not the technique that feels disconnected but the lack of significance and feeling.
Who are your favourite artists?
Louise Bourgeois, Hannah Wilke, Jenny Saville…
What role do you think art and artists have in society?
Artists give voice and embodiment to the intangible. A society solely based on science and the ability to follow formula is a society that neglects free thought, creativity and in turn innovation and problem solving. Convention whilst a very confortable thing, often lacks to support our wellbeing and that’s why art is so important.
What's the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I don’t know… I’ve already thrown it away. Oh no wait yes! It was: “consider the audience when making art”. I think this is quite possibly the worst consideration to make as an artist. Fun to think about after… but not during the creative process.
What do you love about being an artist?
The boundless freedom of imagination and the ability to bring it to life.
What do you hate about being an artist?
I don’t hate anything about being an artist too much but perhaps having too many projects going on at once or unfinished/ unresolved work… I find that really plagues my mind.
And finally, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I wish I could say something selfish and fun like flying but I’d rather be able to click my fingers and make the sick and suffering healthy and happy.