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Contemporary Scottish artist Steve Johnston creates powerful pieces, placing small characters against vast, open scenes, whilst leaving the details open to interpretation.

History and Background

I was born in Glasgow in 1956 however I spent the majority of my formative years in Dumfries. I enjoyed art at school but I never considered it as a career path, I didn’t think it was possible to do anything with it so I got a job as an apprentice electrician. I lasted only about a year or so in that profession because one day I was sent to the shop to get lunch and I used their lunch money to phone Carlisle Art College to see if I could get in. When I arrived back without the food needless to say they weren't pleased...but the wheels had been set in motion.

I was at Carlisle college of art from ' 73 to' 76. In my second year I decided to switch to concentrate on photography. I found it really exciting working in black & white photography although I always thought of myself as an artist, simply using a camera not a paintbrush at the time.

After college I moved down to London & began freelancing, I started working for teen magazines such as Jackie and OK, and moved onto Vogue in '77. I also put my photography skills into play taking photos on the Kings road for the 'Pink Punk Book', published in ' 78. The same photographs were exhibited at the Hayward gallery as part of the 'Lives' exhibition in ' 79. That style of photo went onto launch the first issue of i-D magazine in 1980 and I worked for i-D on and off for the next few years.

I was becoming bored with photography though, I just felt I wanted something else, but I stuck at it and didn’t take up painting seriously again until ' 91. I'd continued drawing during the time I was a photographer, but something clicked in ' '91 and I haven't really looked back...painting is my life.

Ideas and Inspirations

In my work I'm always drawn to figures that make a great 'shape', how they're standing or what they're doing comes after that, it's the graphic shape that grabs my interest.

Certain images can for me 'unlock' powerful feelings separate to what the content of the picture is. I try to make paintings that take me somewhere but not somewhere specific, just as I don't want my figures to be of anyone in particular I don't want the location to be real either.