ORGAN THING: James Johnston, best known as Gallon Drunk’s frontman, is also a painter, his paintings sound like his music looks, tonight we’re catching the closing of his excellent solo show at Vout-O-Reenee’s, East London…

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James Johnston, Stash Gallery, East London, August 2019

JAMES JOHNSTON, “Recent Work”, Stash gallery at Vout-O-Reenee’s, East London – James Johnston, mostly, at least for those of us who have been in London long enough and lucky enough to witness his development, is best known as Gallon Drunk’s frontman, he has also spent considerable time working with others: a mid 90s spell as a touring guitarist in The Bad Seeds led to a full role in Nick Cave’s band between 2003 and 2008, and he’s performed regularly with others including Lydia Lunch, Faust, and PJ Harvey, we do know him mostly as a musician, a multi-instrumentalist, a guitarist, a frontman, and an excellent one at that, some of those Gallon Drunk gigs back there were amongst the very best we got to witness. James Johnston is also a painter, he’s clearly as much a painter as a musician, the two are one, he’s not a musician who dabbles with paint now and again or a painter who thinks he might be able to make music as well, he’s as much a painter and he is a musician, his paintings sound like his music looks and tonight we’re catching the closing night of his excellent solo show at the Stash gallery at Vout-O-Reenee’s, East London. Yes I know, it should have been covered on these pages while it was still happening, bad of us, things are slacking around here (and it does so often feel that if we don’t document these things in some way then no one will).

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James Johnston, Stash Gallery, East London, August 2019

Not sure when he came out as a painter, but a painter James Johnston very much is, these are powerful paintings, strong pieces, apparently he originally started working small scale in hotel rooms while touring and recording with PJ Harvey, he started quietly posting images of pieces on his social media feed, it rather looks like things have grown rather quickly, that this really is as much of a focus as his music, as important as his music, at one with his music making His paintings are both as bold and loose as his music, or maybe not as loose as it may at first appear, there’s a lot in here, a spiritual personal depth, rich and at times a rather striking use of colour. Dark? maybe, alive with a spirit|? Definitely, beautiful certainly, worldly, real or imagined, blurred lines, open spaces, strange beasts, glorious buffalo painting conjured up from somewhere deep. Prolific so it seems, following in from various group shows, The Stash Gallery show marks the first solo exhibition of his work. Let’s get it right here, this is not a semi-famous rock musician cashing in on his fame and gaining attention on the back of it, this has been a quiet evolution, there’s as many here for the busy closing might performance who know very little about his musical history. Macabre now and again, raw but never too raw, always under control, carefully raw, varied, vivid, a united whole though, very much an exciting painter with a strong identity, a painterly exuberance, a strong palette, sometimes eerie, maybe disturbing? Very much spiritual, other, an otherness, paintings to wonder about, a painter to think about, an excellent collection of paintings and a rather powerful musical performance as well, a spirited, spiritual, powerful closing to an excellent exhibition   (sw)

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Next up from James Johnston in terms of art. “You know More Than I know” at The Art Academy, The Former Newington Library, 155 Walworth Road, London, SW17 1RS – “New group show, Steve Gullick, Corin Johnson, Harry Pye, Aleks Wojcik, James Johnston. A really great mix of photography, sculpture, drawing and painting, titled after the enigmatic John Cale song. We’ll have a little gallery ‘shop’ of smaller strange and wonderful things too, along with books and prints etc by the artists. Opening night, 11th Sept at 6pm. The show is then up to Mon 15th Sept. Short run, and a rare chance to see a lot of this work, so try and make it down. Hope to see you there”

Click on an image to enlarge or to run the fractured slide show

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