Originally a contemporary British artist Johanna now lives and works in Melbourne. She studied Fine Art with Creative Writing (BA Honours) at university in the UK and shortly after graduating exhibited her work across the UK and Europe with “New British Artists”. Since then she has worked and exhibited in both the UK and Australia but her art has taken her to other parts of the world as well.
After graduating Johanna has spent extended periods of time in India studying, photographing and painting its atmosphere and people. “I was interested in painting and capturing the mundane moments of vulnerability”, Mrs Wilbraham said.
It is especially the children that she worked with there who captured her imagination and thoughts and still now appear in her art.
As she explained herself, her pieces do not start with the model as such but abstract shapes created by paint poured on the surface. This is followed by new layers of paint that get slightly more controlled until the final detail is added with a pipette. It is a process that shifts from a complete lack of control to gaining it back again but only momentarily as the paint takes the piece to a completely different direction in the next layer.
“Half of the interest is watching the paint interact with itself” she describes. Ultimately the paint leads the way and Mrs Wilbraham reacts to and directs it.
Her technique makes her large-scale portraits highly spontaneous and original “I always wanted to be an artist and at school I was absolutely terrible at portraits. Nevertheless I had to learn and in the process became obsessed. As I see it, out of those bigger struggles becomes great passion” she explains. And this obsession has led her to practice her craft with intensity and complexity that sets her apart from the mainstream.
Vulnerability and fragility often dominate her subject matter and especially in the female form. “I consider my fascination with painting women like a beast I have yet to tame. I feel both frustrated by many representations of women in the media, and yet also influenced and shaped by them. I am certainly interested in beauty, but of a more imperfect kind.”
She works to protect the vulnerability in her subjects and over the years has brought more and more strength and challenge to it. Her models are often seen looking directly at the viewer. Their gaze can be challenging, shy, vulnerable and even uncomfortable but it never allows the viewer to dismiss it. As she lets the paint do what it does without interference, Mrs Wilbraham captures the model the same way, exactly as is.
Art needs to be a wonder, it needs to touch our soul, it needs to excite and be the marriage of the unexpected and Johanna Wilbraham’s art is truly all that.