Artist & Screen Printer
Arranging to meet Johnnyx was admittedly done in haste. I had contacted him the day before and was extremely lucky that he didn’t mind me coming round to visit his studio in B&D Studios in Newcastle. The man (and mastermind) behind Johnnyx is John Harrison, an artist and printmaker who repurposes pop art in his edgy and provocative prints.
Through our conversation I was intrigued to find out that Johnnyx previously worked for many years as a digital artist before switching to printmaking. According to him, he was keen to move away from digital work when he found himself questioning its value. His current artistic practice deals with the more tangible aspects of design, and he enjoys that he can exercise his creativity in every step of the process.
I love the fact that Johnnyx celebrates the physicality of his art. Stepping inside his compact studio space, I am immediately drawn to the myriad of colours and bold designs - his proofs decorate the walls of his studio. It almost feels like I’m getting a glimpse at what’s has been on his mind.
[About screenprinting:] “There’s always an element of surprise. Once you’re done with your print and you lift the screen, you still can’t know for certain if it worked the way you wanted. I like that.”
While most of his artwork is screen printed, it isn’t as simple as pressing a button on a computer. Each piece also includes hand-painted elements and the variations of pressure and paint make each piece unique.
What first drew me to Johnnyx’s prints is how familiar the motifs and imagery felt. It’s a brilliant idea - he uses advertising and pop culture images from copyright free sources and carefully designs them into layers. These are eventually reworked through his design process and the product is both nostalgic and punchy. And almost always providing a strong, even subversive view on culture and politics.
And the coolest thing? For Johnnyx, there is no lack of inspiration. Designs come easily to him. When I visited last year, I got the chance to watch him at work. He was working on a piece inspired by an incident that happened earlier in 2019 in Warsaw, Poland. The National Museum in Warsaw had removed a 1973 video by Polish artist Natalia LL, which featured a young woman suggestively eating a banana. This went viral on social media as people began posting photos of themselves eating bananas. It even drew a crowd of about 100 people who gathered to eat bananas in front of the museum in protest. Inspired by these events, Johnnyx created his ‘Bananapocalyse’ piece which contains familiar elements and motifs.
I left Johnnyx’s studio feeling so refreshed to have spent time with someone who so deeply loves his work. He creatively works out his opinions on cultural and political issues through his experimental designs. And the result is vivid art pieces that are familiar at a glance but also reveal hidden layers of meanings.
Grab one of Johnnyx’s new prints for yourself! Check out his website, or on Instagram.