Toronto, Canada, 2021


Artist Statement

My art promotes a symbiotic relationship between humanity and the environment. I think of art as a biological manifestation of the species body/mind. I believe that if we can activate new perceptions, which already exist in the so-called subconscious or archetypal mind, we can influence cultural change.

Individualism is reductive while a quantum mechanical reality would be fluid, thus space is not empty, the ‘self’ contains ‘others’ and time is embedded in the present. My paintings try to express this sense of fluidity within the understanding that viewers project pre-ordained ‘interpretations’. Terms like abstraction and figuration are not really meaningful. I prefer to think of marks as being bound to the subject or having their boundaries released to allow osmosis to take place.

Our sense of ‘Self’ is a construction, as neurologist Antonio Damascio confirms in his book ‘Self Comes to Mind’. Perhaps we should renounce objective/subjective identity, which will always be reductive and exclusionary, to embrace the movement of the verb. We need to live in a spirit of symbiosis rather than exploitation, having empathy for the organisms within and without us that keep us alive.

Seed Whale




Extinction Madonna






“Loosening Identity” at Articsok Gallery: a video presentation by the artist

Part one: 

Part two:

Ashley Johnson’s art promotes a symbiotic relationship between humanity and the environment. His metaphorical paintings explore socio-environmental issues like the state of the ocean.

The identity of forms is ‘loosened’ through overlays and omissions to generate an uncertain perception. This creates a zone for viewers to re-imagine existence.

He says: “We need to reappraise our animal nature and our relationship to the land. A key tool for this is the virility of perception. We project what we think we see, so we need to seed this possibility with fresh vision.”

Ashley Johnson is a Toronto artist, originally from South Africa.