London trip 2011

For this trip to London I had plans to see the Tate Modern and the Gerhard Richter retrospective. I did this as well as visited the Saatchi gallery’s New Art from Germany, the Gagosian gallery in Kings Cross, the National Gallery, the Courtault and the British Museum.

Each morning I started my day by walking along Bermondsey street to Borough Market, where I had fabulous hot soups followed by grilled gourmet sandwiches that fortified me until late in the evening. There were large crowds at the market and even greater ones at the London Tower Bridge Underground station. Hundreds of people were walking to work in the area. This was completely unlike in Los Angeles, where most everyone who can would have driven to work alone or with friends or lovers.

Tate Modern

A London bridge overpass on the way to the Tate Modern

A Barclays Bank rental bicycle stand - one of many in London

An office tower in South East London. I was surprised by the sheer level of commercial development in the area, given its history. Stil on my way by foot to the Tate Modern

The approach to the Tate Modern from the North of London across the Thames. I was coming from South East London, from the Bermondsey Square Hotel. I would later cross this bridge into City of London after my visit to the museum. As my first visit to the Tate was in the evening, I experienced this sense of there being something tremendous and timeless in my midst as I approached the behemoth former power station, walking up the vast graded concourse downward and into the base level of the museum.

Paul Deveraux painting at the Tate Modern

The Joseph Beuys Artist Room at the Tate Modern. It is part of a large collection of Artist Rooms (collections of works by a single artist) that are being exhibited throughout Great Britain.

The Beuys Artist's Room installation

Another section of the Beuys Artist Room installation

A painting by Barkley Hendricks in the Tate Modern.

A Christian Schad painting at the Tate Modern


A Do Ho Suh sculpture of a staircase at the Tate Modern

A sculpture made of reeds of wood at the Tate Modern

Guessing this is a sculpture by Robert Morris

The ramp exit of the Tate with the bookstore in the background

I walked up to this memorial to the London Blitz after crossing the Tower bridge into City of London after my visit to the Tate Modern.

Magistrates Court, City of London

The London "Gherkin building"

The venerable world class Lloyd's of London. I was expecting a much older structure. Of course I also imagined that London was much less contemporary than it actually is, which is amazing to witness.

A London cathedral and a red double decker bus

This is the most spectacular open air dining and pubs collection I've ever seen. Hundreds of people were out celebrating being in London that night.

A gargoyle ornamental sculpture is part of the open air City of London dining and bars mall. When I walked through lots of celebrating was happening. Must have been a good day in City of London financial markets. One of the bars I passed along the way had an elevated floor. It was joyful and full of cheer and people enjoying a day of success. Its' called The Counting Room.

The infamous Tower of London

The Harley bar, South East London, a few blocks away from where I stayed at the Bermondsey Hotel.

A pub in South East London.

South East London, where I walked after midnight every night and took photographs.

The Pricecut market, just a block away from the Bermonsey Sguare Hotel.

Apartment block that curves at the elbow of the street near the Saatchi Gallery in London.

National Gallery

Rembrandt-Belshazzars Feast. This was one of the most astounding pictures that I was able to take in over several minutes of viewing it at the National Gallery London. It is a startling work - larger than I expected, full of mythical mystical and hypnotic power.

Rembrant's Ecce Homo. I spoke to an Englishman who was also looking at this work. Both of us agreed that we had never seen anything like it. In the gallery it looked like a sculptural work on paper!

Leonardo da Vinci, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and the Young St. John the Baptist (The Burlington House cartoon) (London, National Gallery of Art)

According to some information I read in the museum, Edgar Degas’ private art collection forms the core of the National Gallery.

A Hoogstraaten Perspective Box c. 1660

Hoogstraaten successfully attempted a three-dimensional exhibit in London. The show was the interior of the great church at Haarlem. Hoogstraaten was a Dutch maker of perspective boxes and other optical toys.

A superb Hoogstraaten perspective box (left) c. 1660. Two individual views from individual peepholes provided this 3-dimensional view of a contemporary Dutch home. Five walls of the interior ‘box’ are painted with interior scenes of perspective while the front wall is left open for light.

Light once again comes into our story as it is this very light from the open side that plays against the perspective artwork of Hoogstraaten. He traveled all over Europe exhibiting his trompe l’oeil-based peepshow boxes.

Samuel Van Hoogstraaten was a student of Rembrandt and studied the writings of Da Vinci. He attended a Dutch school of Trompe l’Oeil which is also a term that means ‘deceptive trickery’, to ‘fool one’s eye’ and to ‘deceive the sight’.

The Courtault

The Courtault galleries

Manet's Bar at the Folie Bergere, the Courtault, London. I was overwhelmed with anticipation in getting to finally personally inspect this picture. In it were so many layers of meaning, and at least three historical forms of painting, from Impressionism, Realism, and what I perceived to be a form of proto-Cubism in the background. It is a severe and brilliant painting.

The British Museum

The Rosetta Stone, British Museum, London

Egyptial royal figure in the British Museum

A Greek Temple found by the British Museum

Funeral sculpture at the British Museum

White Cube Bermondsey

White Cube Bermondsey at night. Shot taken on my way back to the Bermondsey Square Hotel South East London

Borough Market

Borough Market, London

a cheese monger at Borough Market

Olives heaven at Borough Market, London



Photographing in South London at Night (2011)

265 Southwark, South London

In November of 2011 I traveled to London to see several exhibitions and to shoot my first ever photography project there. For this purpose I checked into the Bermondsey Square hotel in SE1, Southwark, London, to be in near to Borough market for my morning’s breakfast meal, and to be in short walking distance of South East London at the end of Bermondsey street and further south.

I decided to shoot with two Canon cameras that could fit into my hand and would not need a flash to shoot at night. After eating a late night meal at a nearby all night falafel restaurant, I ventured across Kent road in Southwark with camera in hand. The photos her are a small part of what I shot, and are selected in part for thematic reasons as well as for the aesthetic dimensions they explore and forefront.  The neighborhood reminded me of sections of Brooklyn, New York, with its continuous wall of apartments and family owned fast food restaurants in every direction. But then I would hear the distinctive cry of a London ambulance, and would stare into the reverse flow traffic, and there would be no doubt that although there were clear similarities between this enclave and African-American sections of Brooklyn, there were unique cultural differences as well. There seemed to be a West Indian population in the vicinity, based upon my seeing a few Caribbean restaurants that were still open after midnight. I visited the neighborhood twice after midnight and shot storefronts and buildings, sometimes as people passed by. I also shot in North London and walked across London Bridge into the City of London my first night there. A suite of paintings will follow in response to these and other photographs I shot, as well as art that I saw at The Tate Modern, including the permanent collection and the Gerhard Richter retrospective, the Courtault, the National Gallery of London, The British Museum, and the debut show at White Cube Bermondsey.

What has struck me about the 265 Southwark, South London picture as well as Abstraction at to 261 South London, both shot in the vicinity of Southwark, London, is how these two photographs frame what would be considered an advanced form of abstract collage/painting, with a representational image of an apartment address as the single bit of language that anchors the picture in the real world. Following this are photos shot between the walls of two closed business establishments, which yielded the remarkable abstractions that capture the aging and weather work billboards and decaying building sections.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles, California


Abstraction at 251 South London

72-74-76-78-80 South London

All Night Drinks service - London

Apartment 261- South London

London between two walls

London is a wall between two nights

London is a wall between two fights

London nightwood - the peephole

London in the shadow of the sign

South London door locks

Public bar South London

The Royal Blue Door - South London

Virgo's of South London

London at night: The red bus

Memorial to the Blitz: City of London

London Magistrate Court

A Hospital in Southeast London

Vincent Johnson received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in 1997 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Painting 1986.  He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was nominated for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 nominated for Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles.

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