Three Moments of Illumination, 1998
Acrylic on canvas, triptych
2740 x 4320 mm
Collection of HSBC Holdings plc
Permission to reproduce courtesy of the artist and DACS
“Spaces of quiet meditation, places to reflect and often religious places” is how artist Ben Johnson describes the subjects of many of his architectural paintings, which include Granada’s Alhambra, Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock and Florence’s San Marco. Although HSBC’s Hong Kong HQ is unlikely be described as a space for spiritual reflection, Johnson believes the architects - Foster + Partners - working closely to the client’s brief, was sensitive to the long hours worked by employees and therefore created the light-filled atrium as “a joyful space, space that’s good to work in, a space where one should celebrate life”.
Johnson spent five days photographing the atrium from different angles, capturing the movement of shadows throughout the day. In creating a triptych, he acknowledges the building’s cathedral-like presence and by making the right panel a mirror of the left, he forces the viewer to question whether the space is real or imagined.
Rather than a representation of a global giant, Johnson hopes the work reflects the many decisions made by him as the painter, the architect’s design skills and the client’s good intentions.
More than four metres in width, this vast artwork has been exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Venice Biennale.
Hedge, issue 46, July 2017, pp68-74
Photorealist Ben Johnson travelled to an extraordinary house in the south of France, belonging to an architect he admired enormously. On a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean, an eight-storey building had been reduced to four floors, a vast atrium at its core.
Far Horizons II portrays the study of a powerful and strong individual who has realised great ambition; it's also a place of reflection, peace and privacy.
In contrast, Johnson’s recent Room of the Revolutionary depicts the room of a politician in Mexico who was machine-gunned by the federal army in front of his family. It is Johnson’s first work of violence and certainly has made an impact, winning this year's Threadneedle Prize.
Hedge, issue 33, February 2015, pp68-76