Charmian Johnson

May 29–July 3, 2021

Exhibition documentation available hereJohnson_JOH-0081_framed_01.jpg#asset:22778

It is difficult to summarize the four decades of drawings and ceramics that Charmian Johnson (1939­­­–2020) has left us, but in the simplest of terms, beautiful is the word most unironically and instinctively used when they are first encountered. This exhibition focuses on her two distinct and substantial practices with a selection of works from 1979 to 2018. Through particular and peculiar forms—made with exacting skill, intuition and attention—her works push beyond quick intellectual and aesthetic appraisal, theoretical impulse and boundaries of craft/art. They offer us an alternative route in both the experience of the work itself and the artist’s practice, requiring and rewarding our sustained attention. Born in Pouce Coupe, BC and living and working in Vancouver the majority of her life, she was a key figure in a local and international ceramics community since the 1970s. She travelled frequently to England, Morocco, Turkey, Hawaii and France, where she closely observed both ceramic culture and plant life, producing a focused body of drawings and ceramics over many decades.

An exceptionally dedicated and respected ceramicist, whose knowledge and technique was well known, she devoted her daylight hours to her home studio and kiln. Committing to a ‘potter’s life’, she consistently produced numerous ceramic objects of stunning and subtle complexity, both in form, glaze and skill. While connected to the Bernard Leach tradition, with whom she worked closely as an archivist in his late life, her ceramics of complex clarity are decidedly her own. Occupying the enviable position between functionality and refined aesthetic authority, Charmian insisted her ceramics be held in hand and used in our lives in order to be fully comprehended; a difficult balance. A balance that also complicated her relationship to the contemporary art community that she regarded with some well-founded suspicion in the contextualization of her work, but one that she had opened to in recent years.

Her evening hours were often dedicated to a meditative practice of drawing—studiously wearing down steel pen nibs to an extraordinarily fine point, impossible to fabricate by mechanical means—before using them in exceedingly fine articulation. The evolving series of strange and refined ink drawings of flowers and plants developed over 40 years; a quiet, private practice in some ways, only occasionally exhibited in public. While taking cues from historical botanical drawings, Albrecht Dürer, Art Nouveau, and psychedelic graphics, the works transcend these referents in both the density and spareness of their enunciation. Charmian painstakingly rendered plant life over months, often years. She did not work from photographs or other images, preferring observation and her own translational memory in rendering. A drawing of a single flower will contain information from all sides of itself, which she compiled as her own formal composition. The drawings do not illustrate a general category or genus of plant as would a traditional botanical illustration, but bring forth through great focus that particular, unique and individual organism. This was done with a deep sense of responsibility, often taking years to complete a drawing, returning and working on many simultaneously.

Early drawings from the ’70s started in Tangiers, Morocco are graphic, the plants’ outer forms and interior lines become integrated with abstract form and pattern. Work completed in Hawaii in the ’80s transitioned from bold lines to more detailed articulation, their tropical plant forms lending angles and edges. In works completed in Vancouver over the last decades, Charmian developed compositions of increased subtlety and intricacy. In contrast to her attention to heightened reality, she allowed large areas of paper to be left empty—leaves, petals, stems and sketched areas of the work are left ‘unfinished’, while accidents and notes become aspects of the works’ composition. Notations—on plant name, pens used, the paper, even the geographic location where the work was started and finished—are integrated amongst the drawings. These blended renderings come up against hard-edged borders on the page, only to transgress and push beyond them in another area. The viewer is asked to move in closer to resolve the oddness of form and the immensity of detail, as much as nature asks of itself.

High above this
West Coast morning cloud
rise frigid Spirit Peaks.
damp, my Chanoyu bowls
are slow to dry.

–Charmian Johnson, 2014

Charmian Johnson (b. 1939, Pouce Coupe, Canada, d. 2020, Vancouver, Canada) lived and worked in Vancouver. Over the past 40 years, her pottery and works on paper have been included in numerous group exhibitions across Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Anthropology at The University of British Columbia, the Burnaby Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, and the Museum of Natural Sciences, Ottawa; most recently in Nature, Catriona Jeffries (2018), and Thrown: Influences and Intentions of West Coast Ceramics, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver (2004), which she co-curated. She has been accorded significant solo exhibitions, including Flora: Drawings by Charmian Johnson, Vancouver Art Gallery (1989); and An Exhibition of 99 Bowls by Charmian Johnson, University of British Columbia Fine Arts Gallery (1985). Johnson studied drawing, graphics, and pottery at the University of British Columbia.

Tanya Lukin Linklater

Lukin Linklater The The 2014 Still 01


Two Truths and a Lie
September 21–December 30, 2021
Oakville Galleries

Northern Convergences
Slow Scrape

o bod

2021 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts


The Language in Common
September 14–December 12, 2021
Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University, Middletown

We are closed for summer break August 1–30, 2021

950 East Cordova Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6A 1M6 Canada

+1 604 736 1554

Catriona Jeffries Owner, Director
Peter Gazendam Director
Sol Hashemi Visuals and Archive
Toby Froschauer Head Preparator and Exhibitions Manager
Asia Jong Administration and Research
Paul Dhaliwal Finance
Rachel Topham Photography Documentation
Scott Ponik Design
Alex Mahan Web Development

Exhibition History

Charmian Johnson
May 29–July 3, 2021

Ian Wallace
In the Museum
April 10–May 22, 2021

Damian Moppett
February 13–March 27, 2021

Liz Magor
December 5, 2020–January 30, 2021

Duane Linklater
October 24–November 21, 2020

Elizabeth McIntosh
Mom or Mother
September 12–October 10, 2020

Valérie Blass
La poudre aux yeux: Of smoke in mirrors
May 23–June 27, 2020

Ashes Withyman
Some kind of doctor receiving thunder
February 8–March 14, 2020

Abbas Akhavan
They asked the fox, “Who is your witness?”
He said, “My tail.”

November 23, 2019–January 18, 2020

Christina Mackie
September 21–November 2, 2019

Rochelle Goldberg
May 25–July 20, 2019

Abbas Akhavan, Valérie Blass, Raymond Boisjoly, Rebecca Brewer, Trisha Brown and Trisha Brown Dance Company, Chris Burden, Raven Chacon, Geoffrey Farmer, Hanne Darboven, Marcel Duchamp, Julia Feyrer, Alex Frost, Cynthia Girard-Renard, Rochelle Goldberg, Dan Graham, Brian Jungen, On Kawara, Janice Kerbel, Christine Sun Kim, Duane Linklater, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Christina Mackie, Myfanwy MacLeod, Liz Magor, Elizabeth McIntosh, Damian Moppett, Stephen Murray, Kate Newby, Jerry Pethick, Eileen Quinlan, Judy Radul, Aurie Ramirez, Rob Renpenning, Marina Roy, Kevin Schmidt, Nick Sikkuark, Michael Snow, Ron Terada, Calder Tsuyuki Tomlinson, Ian Wallace, Nicole Wermers, and Ashes Withyman

Unexplained Parade
February 9–May 11, 2019

Judy Radul
Words No Pictures Pictures No Words
May 11–June 16, 2018

Julia Feyrer
Background Actors
March 16–April 21, 2018

Rebecca Brewer, Rochelle Goldberg, Charmian Johnson, Christina Mackie
January 26–March 3, 2018

Elizabeth McIntosh
November 17–December 22, 2017

Ron Terada
September 15–October 28, 2017

Elizabeth McIntosh, Monique Mouton, Silke Otto-Knapp
May 26–July 8, 2017

Ian Wallace
Street Floor Table Page Wall Canvas, 1969–2017
March 31–May 13, 2017

Ashes Withyman
March 10–18, 2017

Geoffrey Farmer
The Big Kitchen
January 14–February 25, 2017

Rebecca Brewer
The Holding Sky
November 12–December 17, 2016

Raymond Boisjoly
September 16–October 29, 2016

Damian Moppett
May 6–June 25, 2016

Liz Magor
March 5–April 23, 2016

Brian Jungen
January 22–February 27, 2016

Valérie Blass
To only ever say one thing forever the same thing
November 21, 2015–January 9, 2016

Janice Kerbel
September 12–October 24, 2015

Liz Magor, Jerry Pethick, Ron Tran
A view believed to be yours
May 15–June 27, 2015

Myfanwy MacLeod
March 21–May 2, 2015

Ian Wallace
The Construction Site
January 17–February 28, 2015

Duane Linklater
But the sun is up and you're going?
November 15–December 20, 2014

Ron Terada
September 19–October 25, 2014

Jerry Pethick
Where sidewalks leap upon the table: works on paper 1966–2000
May 24–June 28, 2014

Rebecca Brewer
The Written Face
March 29–May 10, 2014

Geoffrey Farmer
The Grass and the Banana go for a walk
February 8-March 15, 2014

Gareth Moore
Household Temple Yard
November 26, 2013–January 11, 2014

Damian Moppett
September 20–November 2, 2013

Brian Jungen, Duane Linklater
Modest Livelihood
June 7–July 20, 2013

Andrea Büttner, Joëlle de La Casinière, Gareth Moore
April 26–June 1, 2013

Raymond Boisjoly
March 1–April 13, 2013

Liz Magor
I is being This
November 16–December 22, 2012

Christina Mackie, Jerry Pethick
Bigger than a book, wilder than a tree
September 14–October 27, 2012

Judy Radul
April 27–June 9, 2012

Julia Feyrer
Alternatives and Opportunities
March 2–April 14, 2012

Ian Wallace
January 13–February 18, 2012

Ulla von Brandenburg, Guy de Cointet, Geoffrey Farmer, Janice Kerbel, Daria Martin, Judy Radul
People Things Enter Exit
October 28–December 10, 2011

Ron Terada
September 3–October 8, 2011

Robert Kleyn
Works 1969–1983
May 20–June 25, 2011

Arabella Campbell
March 25–April 30, 2011

Alex Morrison
February 3–March 12, 2011

Brian Jungen
November 19, 2010–January 15, 2011

Kevin Schmidt
September 17–October 23, 2010

Damian Moppett
The Sculptor’s Studio is a Painting
May 21–June 26, 2010

Geoffrey Farmer
The Surgeon and the Photographer
January 29-March 6, 2010

Myfanwy MacLeod
November 6–December 12, 2009

Ian Wallace
Works 1970–1979
September 18–October 24, 2009

Brian Jungen, Rebecca Belmore, Myfanwy MacLeod, Kevin Schmidt, Alex Morrison, Sam Durant, Ron Terada, Geoffrey Farmer, Jin-me Yoon
May 15–June 20, 2009

Christos Dikeakos
March 26–April 25, 2009

Gareth Moore
Uncertain Pilgrimage
January 15–February 14, 2009

Jin-me Yoon
October 30–November 29, 2008

Jerry Pethick
September 12–October 11, 2008

Ron Terada
May 23–June 28, 2008

Germaine Koh
April 11–May 10, 2008

Roy Kiyooka, Damian Moppett, Jerry Pethick, Ian Wallace
Process as Work
February 29–March 29, 2008

Kelly Wood, Monika Grzymala
January 18–February 16, 2008

Alex Morrison
November 23–December 22, 2007

Ian Wallace
October 18–November 17, 2007

Judy Radul
September 7–October 6, 2007

Arabella Campbell
June 8–July 7, 2007

Brian Jungen
April 27–May 26, 2007

Sam Durant
Scenes from the Pilgrim Story: Natural History
March 16–April 14, 2007

Damian Moppett
Progress in Advance of the Fall
January 19–February 24, 2007

Isabelle Pauwels
November 25–December 22, 2006

Geoffrey Farmer
Airliner Open Studio
October 21–November 18, 2006

Kevin Schmidt
September 9–October 7, 2006

Gareth Moore, Jacob Gleeson
St. George Marsh
August 24–September 1, 2006

Christos Dikeakos, Geoffrey Farmer, Arni Haraldsson, Brian Jungen, Roy Kiyooka, Germaine Koh, Myfanwy MacLeod, Damian Moppett, Isabelle Pauwels, Jerry Pethick, Judy Radul, Kevin Schmidt, Ron Terada, Ian Wallace, Jin-me Yoon
274 East 1st
June 3–July 8, 2006

Christos Dikeakos
November 25, 2005–January 16, 2006

Alex Morrison, Isabelle Pauwels, Frances Stark, Johannes Wohnseifer
And to stop you interfering, I shall have to dematerialize you again
October 13–November 19, 2005

Geoffrey Farmer, Brian Jungen, Germaine Koh, Myfanwy MacLeod, Damian Moppett, Alex Morrison, Ron Terada, Ian Wallace, Kelly Wood
Mix with care
July 5–September 24, 2005

Ron Terada
May 20–June 25, 2005

Arabella Campbell, Neil Campbell, Ron Terada, Ian Wallace
Painting After Poverty
April 8–May 14, 2005

Sam Durant
Color Pictures
February 25–March 2, 2005

Germaine Koh
January 14–February 19, 2005

Roy Kiyooka
Open Window on a Slow Train
December 2004

Jin-me Yoon
October 22–November 27, 2004

Myfanwy MacLeod
Don’t Stop Dreaming
September 10–October 16, 2004

Artist Curating Artists:
Damian Moppett curates Allison Hrabluik and Zin Taylor
May 28–June 26, 2004

Geoffrey Farmer
Every Surface In Some Way Decorated, Altered or Changed Forever (Except the Float)
April 7–May 15, 2004

Artist Curating Artists:
Myfanwy MacLeod curates Kyla Mallett
February 11–March 13, 2004

Damian Moppett
October 30–December 6, 2003

Carsten Höller, Cameron Jamie, Jakob Kolding, Myfanwy MacLeod, Kyla Mallett, Valérie Mréjen, Isabelle Pauwels, Raymond Pettibon, Ron Terada, Lawrence Weiner, Erwin Wurm
September 10–October 25, 2003

Iain Baxter, Geoffrey Farmer, Roy Kiyooka, Germaine Koh, Myfanwy MacLeod, Ron Terada
I Sell Security
May 29–August 16, 2003

Kelly Wood
Black Plastic
April 11–May 17, 2003

Ian Wallace
February 28–April 5, 2003

Alex Morrison
January 17–February 22, 2003

Allyson Clay
November 29–December 21, 2002

Ron Terada
September 6–October 12, 2002

Germaine Koh, Alex Morrison, N.E. Thing Co., Ron Terada, Ian Wallace
June 8–August 31, 2002