Claudette Johnson

29 images Created 25 Sep 2023

Claudette Johnson, photographed in her studio in East London, ahead of her exhibition at the Courtold Gallery. The painting behind her is a self portrait study. Claudette Johnson is a British visual artist. A founding member of the Black British Arts Movement, Claudette Johnson is considered one of the most significant figurative artists of her generation. For over 30 years she has created large-scale drawings of Black women and men that are at once intimate and powerful. Claudette Johnson was born in Manchester, UK. She studied Fine Art at Wolverhampton Polytechnic. While still a student there, she became a founder member of the BLK Art Group and took part in their second show at the Africa Centre, London, in 1983. Her talk, and seminar, at the First National Black Arts Conference in 1982 is recognised as a formative moment in the Black feminist art movement in the UK.

Johnson's work has featured in important group exhibitions such as Five Black Women at London's Africa Centre Gallery in 1983, Black Woman Time Now at Battersea Arts Centre in the same year, and The Thin Black Line at the ICA in London in 1986. Reviewing her 1992 solo exhibition In This Skin: Drawings by Claudette Johnson, at the Black Art Gallery, London, artist Steve McQueen (at the time a student at Goldsmiths College) wrote: "What she does is to bring out the soul, sensuality, dignity, and spirituality of the black woman....Claudette Johnson's work is rooted in her African heritage. Her talent is as powerful as it is obvious."

Lubaina Himid describes Johnson's work as "deeply sensuous" and "richly coloured". The artist calls the Black women in her drawings "monoliths, larger than life versions of women". Eddie Chambers notes: "These portraits were imposing pieces that demanded the viewer’s attention, as well as their respect."

In 2011, Johnson co-founded the BLK Arts Research Group with Marlene Smith and Keith Piper,[8] to re-examine the BLK Arts Group's body of work and historical legacy. In 2012, two major projects were staged by this research group: a symposium with a retrospective exhibition entitled The Blk Art Group was held at the Graves Gallery, Sheffield, and an international conference entitled "Reframing the Moment" was held at the University of Wolverhampton. Her work was included in the Guildhall Art Gallery exhibition No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960–1990 (10 July 2015 – 24 January 2016).

Johnson had a solo exhibition at Hollybush Gardens, London (17 November 2017 – 22 December 2017), where a series of seven of her large-scale works on paper was presented, about which Frieze magazine said: "As a body of work, it possesses a profound and tender intimacy."
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