Moving on, as all good artists must, Greg Johns is now investigating figure, myth and symbolism. A decade ago when he had the first of his three exhibitions at the Bonython- Meadmore Gallery (1980,1983,1987) his sculpture had a strong formal content, was determinedly geometrical in concept, and had a marked sense of balance and mass.

For most of the 80s it often seemed he was determined to square the circle: simple geometries were broken up, extended, twisted, made to dance weighty measures, sometimes in tightly syncopated rhythmic sets. Other times they became complex, hieratic monoliths dominating the landscape. Both his maquettes and completed monumental works from this period are distinctly dramatic, attractive emblematic statements. Then, as now, he generally used the Austen steel for its velvety oxidisation colour and apparent strength.

These qualities can still be found in his work, but in 1988 when he was an artist in residence at the Rhode Island School of Art in the United States a new and markedly different element also entered into play. He was anxious to break away, albeit perhaps only briefly, from his long term interest in formalist imagery and pursuing this course he developed the first of his abstract figure forms. So far these have formed the basis of a number of major commissions, in Adelaide notably in the group for the Manchester Unity Hibernian Building called "Forgotten Remembered Figures" and the Wyatt Trust called "Shrine I". Other important recent site- specific commissions incorporating figurative and symbolic elements include "Passage" for the Tasmanian University Centenary and "Shrine II" for St. Vincent's Private Hospital, Sydney.

This new direction incorporates a number of influences and streams - the art of the New Hebrides, Celtic art, medieval and gothic forms and semiotics, for instance - yet there remains a clear link with the earlier geometries and dualities. Nevertheless, the element of drama if anything has been significantly heightened by the addition of vestigial, suggestive symbolism, and this increasingly readable and expressive content in the sculpture shows another challenging and important development. Greg Johns is clearly moving into a period of high achievement and innovative creativity.


Peter Ward. January 1991

"Introduction". Greg Johns, Sculpture 1978-1990, Catalogue.