Five Circles of the Sun – Chris Johnson

Tuesday April 26, 2022

A heavy fall of snow on the high Cotswold village where I was living, forbad me to get to the studio. I reverted to my normal travel companions, paper, acrylic paints and pigment, and pastels. I had never really attempted to paint my immediate landscape with this combination. Encircled by snow, I did. As winter slowly gave way to Spring, “Three Traffic Cones” lay on the side of the road lifting the yellow flowered field ahead of me. In the summer I sped off to Ithaca, and worked there before  watching the autumn  colour parade rustle the leaves at “The Lake”, and watch them glow around “Frampton Manor above the Orchard”. Beginning to respond to this medium’s voice box for rich colour, I worked on some interiors with flowers, and occasionally included the drying canvases of models painted there in the previous six months.

A long term plan to return to Zimbabwe and then South Africa formed, and with it my return to Zimbabwe allowed me to paint the first works there in 17 years. “Barbara’s Tree”, “Tobacco Barns” were among works which spoke of too long a time away from my home country, and before I could be wistful, my trip to South Africa had started and the beach sand reminding me of truancy in the Eastern Cape was the platform for “Towards Diaz Cross”, “Kenton” and “The Three Sisters”. Combined with a short spell of teaching and quoting on a commission, I was due to fly to Australia to complete some commissions there. Suddenly, Covid took hold of all our imaginations and the reality was that I could not move from South Africa for the next 18 months.

Locked down in a small town on the edge of the Karoo, surrounded by mountains and vineyards, I warmed to my new environment. “The Drift” was painted with the stuttering advice of a large ginger cat, as it watched my brushstrokes and birds sweep into its field of vision. A moment before lockdown, I had painted on a family farm further south. Next door to it, a favourite farmer prepares “Before the Harvest”. Months later, I return to the farm, always drawn to the gnarled icon of “The Shed and Chevrolet”, and in different studios, borrowed or rented, the  quiet of “Sunday Morning” and “The Blue Chair”. Before I am even ready to leave it is time to head north, even beyond the “Limpopo”.