Terminus @ Tauranga Art Gallery

I’m excited to be exhibiting TERMINUS, my VR installation work made in collaboration with Simon Ward, in my hometown of Tauranga, New Zealand at the Tauranga Art Gallery. TERMINUS was originally commissioned by the National Gallery of Australia and the Balnaves Foundation, and premiered at the NGA in Canberra, Australia in 2018. This is the first presentation of TERMINUS in New Zealand.

More info here.

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McCahon House Gate Dinner

In March 2019 I collaborated with Christchurch Chef Alex Davies on a themed post-apocalyptic dinner party. It was hosted at the McCahon House as part of their Gate dinner series, which teams up resident artists with New Zealand chefs. This video of the event was produced by Frances Carter and Viv Teo, with music by Andrew Clarke.

Pioneer Works Residency, Brooklyn, New York

I will be a Visual Arts Resident at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn for the next five months. Pioneer Works is a cultural center that opened in 2012. It houses science studios, a technology lab, a virtual environment lab for VR and AR production, a recording studio, darkroom, residency studios, galleries, gardens, a ceramics studio, and a bookshop. Pioneer Works’ central hall is home to a rotating schedule of exhibitions, science talks, music performances, workshops, and innovative free public programming.

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McCahon House Residency

I will be spending three months at the McCahon House residency in Titirangi, New Zealand (Jan - April, 2019). The McCahon House residency programe was set up in 2006 in honour of New Zealand Artist Colin McCahon. Artists awarded the residency live and work in a purpose built French Bay house.

For more information on the McCahon House and their residency program for New Zealand artists, visit their website.

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Genetekker Archaic

Simon and I have been in Christchurch, New Zealand installing Genetekker Archaic, a two-part commission by the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū. For more information on the project, visit their website here.

“A mutual love of side-scroller platform video games has fuelled this collaborative project between New York-based New Zealander Jess Johnson and Simon Ward, who lives in Wellington. Johnson’s immensely detailed drawings of imaginary worlds provide the starting point for the Bunker building on the Gallery forecourt, which becomes the ‘cover art’ of an invented medieval fantasy game. The digital screens in the Gallery’s Baileys Knight Frank Foyer feature animated scenes from that imaginary game, rendered in pixel art, an aesthetic derived from early video games. Eventually the artists plan to develop a playable side-scroller video game as an extension of this project.” Christchurch Art Gallery press release


Current, Recent, & Upcoming Shows

The Walters Prize 2018
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland, New Zealand
16 August - 28 October 2018

My collaborative video/installation work with Simon Ward, Whol Why Wurld, is part of the 2018 Walters Prize show currently on at Auckland Art Gallery. The winner of the Walters Prize will be announced November 2nd.

Index Foundation
The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, Stockholm, Sweden
25 August - 25 November 2018

Webwurld, a video work made with Simon Ward, is part of a group show put on by Index Foundation in conjunction with the Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation.

Artspace, Sydney, Australia
30 August - 28 October 2018

A new wall-work, Sycorax, is on view as part of Artspace Sydney’s The Public Body .03 exhibition, which explores “the body as detached from or encompassing much more than mere physical form.” (Installation image here.)

TIME presents Jess Johnson w/ Simon Ward
Melbourne Art Fair
Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia
30 July - 5 August 2018

Webwurld was screened several times daily at the Big Screen at Federation Square in Melbourne as part of the Melbourne Art Fair.

Children of Mallarmé: Fashion, Art & Collaboration
Tauranga Art Gallery, Tauranga, New Zealand
30 June – 16 September 2018

Clothing from my 2015 collaboration with fashion designers Romance Was Born was included in an exhibition that “highlights collaborations between fashion designers and visual artists in New Zealand and Australia over the past three decades.”

Gothic Beauty: Victorian Notions of Love, Loss, & Spirituality
Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo, Australia
6 October 2018 – 10 February 2019

My first collaborative video work with Simon Ward, Mneumonic Pulse, will be a part of an exhibition that “traces the Victorian gothic into contemporary art.”

Obsession: Devil in the Detail
Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Mornington, Australia
30 November 2018 - 17 February 2019

Sycorax (2018) will be featured as part of Obsession: Devil in the Detail, which examines “the meticulous and micro, the real and the hyperreal.”

MacDowell Colony Residency 2018

I’ve been selected for a residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire and will be living and working from one of their cottage studios from 29 August - 3 October 2018.

For more information on the MacDowell Colony and their residency program for artists and writers, visit their website.


Auckland Art Fair 2018

Auckland Art Fair
Ivan Anthony Gallery Stand (D9)
23-27 May 2018

I am presenting a series of unique quilts made in collaboration with my mother, Cynthia Johnson at the Ivan Anthony Gallery stand of the Auckland Art Fair. I will also be giving a public talk at the Ivan Anthony stand with curator Serena Bentley on 24 May at 2:30pm.

“For the Fair, Jess will present her arcane, hand-drawn compositions in an entirely new medium for the first time. The focus of the stand will be several unique quilts made in collaboration with her mother Cynthia Johnson, herself an accomplished quilt-maker. Growing up, Jess was influenced by her mother’s textile arrangements, by observing the processes of dying, cutting, arranging, and piecing together material. This influence can be seen in Jess’s contemporary drawing practice today, which features repetitive geometries, elaborate borders, use of templates, and an affinity with traditional crafts and draughtsmanship. For their collaborative quilts, Jess’s hand-drawn compositions were digitally printed onto bolts of cloth, then turned into quilts with embellished pieced borders by Cynthia.” Ivan Anthony Press Release, 2018


Terminus at National Gallery of Australia

Terminus, 2018
Jess Johnson and Simon Ward
National Gallery of Australia
5 May – 26 August 2018

"TERMINUS, a collaborative exhibition by Jess Johnson and Simon Ward, opened Friday 4 May at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. The centrepiece of the exhibition is five new virtual reality artworks housed within bespoke structures situated on a full-scale tessellated floor map. Commissioned by the NGA and the Balnaves Foundation.

With their pioneering use of virtual reality, Johnson and Ward hold a unique position among contemporary art practitioners. Johnson’s drawings are transformed from analogue into digital, and from solo practice into cross-disciplinary collaboration. Animated by Ward and enriched with input from developer Kenny Smith and sound composer Andrew Clarke, the result is TERMINUS: a mysterious universe of alien architecture populated by humanoid clones and cryptic symbols, explored via a network of travellators and gateways.

TERMINUS presents a quest, a choose-your-own adventure into the technological. Prepare yourself for a slippage of time and space as your journey propels you across five distinct realms: you will pass through Fleshold Crossing; take respite in Known Unknown; lose yourself within Scumm Engine; bravely face impending danger in the tower of Gog & Magog; and experience the brink of sensory overload in the psychedelic scenes of Tumblewych. The mysteries of what you ultimately seek will be revealed: an understanding that reality is not fixed but both malleable and multiple." NGA press release

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The Sydney Morning Herald has reviewed the exhibition here
More information on the Terminus exhibition here

2018 Walters Prize Nomination

Simon Ward and I have been nominated for New Zealand's 2018 Walters Prize, for our installation and video work Whol Why Wurld.

The Walters Prize is considered the most esteemed prize for contemporary New Zealand artists working in the visual arts. The other nominees are Ruth Buchanan, Jacqueline Fraser, and Pati Solomona Tyrell.

The winner will be announced at the Auckland Art Gallery's 2018 Gala Dinner in November.

Upcoming Exhibitions

Everything not saved will be lost
September 7 – October 8, 2017
Jack Hanley Gallery
327 Broom St, New York
This is my first solo show in New York, opening Thursday 7th September at 6pm. For more information about the exhibition visit Jack Hanley Gallery here.

Darren Knight
SPRING 1883 Art Fair

Establishment Hotel, Sydney, Australia
September 6 - 9, 2017

4th Documentary Exhibition /  Stress Field
Hubei Museum of Art, China
Opening 15 September
September 15th - October 20, 2017

Let’s Play: Let’s Play: Art of Our Time
Bunjil Place, City of Casey, Melbourne, Australia
7 December, 2017 - 25 February, 2018

ISCP Residency

I've started a one year studio residency at ISCP (International Studio & Curatorial Program) in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More info on ISCP's program here.

The National 2017: New Australian Art

Simon Ward and I will be exhibiting five new animations at Carriageworks for The National 2017: New Australian Art (30 March - 25 June, 2017). The large-scale exhibition presents the latest in contemporary Australian art, curated across three of Sydney's premier cultural institutions: the Art Gallery of NSW, Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. For more information go here.