Cloud King


Kirsten Johnson

Since 1992 I have completed numerous paintings that now reside in private collections all over North America and Europe. I work out of my "Artscape" studio in the Liberty-Atlantic area of Toronto. My work last appeared publicly at the the Burston Gallery in August of 2003 and before that in Comfort, a solo show at Zsa Zsa, in Toronto. My work appears in Leaving Metropolis, a feature film by Brad Fraser and in Stan Rogal's book of short stories, What Passes for Love and I've recently completed a painting for the cover of my father's book, "How History Made the Mind", to be published by Open Court Books, Chicago.

I have also worked extensively in theatre and film as an actor. This work has affected my painting sensibilities greatly. Currently, I am working with fellow actor/writer Moynan King on a theatre piece about two half-sisters who are syncronized swimmers called The Proust Sisters.


The idea for touchy-feely began in September of 2000 when I was convalescing after being hit by a car on my bike. Lying there, on great amounts of pain killers, not being able to move and feeling quite sorry for myself, I began to fixate on the idea of sock puppets. Specifically, how cheering it would be if I could convince my friends to come over and entertain me with a sock puppet show. I never did request this (I felt I was rapidly using up favours) but the idea lingered on.

I worked through the aftermath of the accident during Comfort, my 2001 show at Zsa Zsa. The basic premise of which was that often consolation is a transitory thing. For functioning adults any lasting improvement of spirit must come from the inside. The paintings all depicted totems of comfort whose usefulness as such becomes dubious when seen taken out of context. Thumb suckers, baby dolls and in two pieces — sock puppets.

Now, with touchy-feely these crude makeshift toys have their own arena.

My work has always been portrait based — driven by a need to capture expression and emotion. Working with inanimate objects hasn't changed this, it's focused it. The emotions depicted/written are complex and specific, contrasting with the extreme simplicity of the subject. Needy. Gorgeously insincere. Morbidly curious. The use of chalk not only references a child's world but suggests impermanence. Always the same two socks are used — scrutiny through repetition. The viewer takes on a more active role as he/she relates to the emotion stated or decides that manipulation is taking place. How does footwear with buttons sewn on to it appear to be "paranoid"? Is it "paranoid" because we are told it is "paranoid"? Why do we feel the need to transfer emotions?

With touchy-feely my goal was to create a body of work whose initial childlike simplicity, humour and obsession will lead the viewer onto its more challenging ideas of emotional perception and transference.