Pia Johnson is a photographer and visual artist, whose practice seeks to investigate issues about cultural difference, diaspora and identity, stemming from her mixed cultural background of Chinese and Italian-Australian descent. She engages with the social and personal aspects of understanding cultural identity, seeking to bring to the front ideas around belonging and otherness.
Pia’s work is collected in private and public collections including the National Gallery of Victoria, and she has exhibited in Australia and internationally. Recent exhibition highlights include solo shows: In a dim light… Edmund Pearce gallery (2014), Finding Yourself at Home Alone at Stockroom Gallery (2013), Fragile Light at Studio Kura Japan (2013), Who’s the Chinese lady that picks you up from school? at Queensland Centre of Photography (2012) and group shows: Love, Loss and Intimacy at NGV International (2010), Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award - Finalist (2014), Settlings at RMIT First Site Gallery (2014), Camera Work: contemporary Portraiture at Blackbox Gallery USA - Finalist (2013) amongst others.
In Artist Profile magazine, Sarah Sweet writes about Pia’s recent series; “In a dim light… successfully unravels mixed tones of emotion that tells of an influential and personal narrative.”
Pia holds a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Visual arts) and Diploma of Modern Languages (Mandarin) from the University of Melbourne, and is currently a Masters of Fine Arts (Research) candidate at RMIT University.
The Nauru Files, File date 28 September 2014
This series of works were commissioned for the exhibition All We Can’t See: Illustrating the Nauru Files curated by Arielle Gamble. The exhibition depicted individual artistic interpretations of the leaked Nauru files exposed by The Guardian in 2016, illuminating the stark human cost of Australia’s policies of offshore detention.
Untitled series was created in response to the Nauru Files published by The Guardian. My works speak to the file dated 28 September 2014. Reading the files was overwhelming and disheartening, the omnipresent word ‘REDACTED’ – will always grate – these nameless people have had experiences I cannot comprehend. My response is visual, with my body – as I can find no words.
"She reported that she has been asking for a 4 minute shower as opposed to 2 minutes. Her request has been accepted on condition of sexual favours. It is a male security person. She did not state if this has or hasn't occurred. The security officer wants to view a boy or girl having a shower."
The Widening Gyre
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre”
- The Second Coming, W.B. Yeats
... vortices ... time and space changing ... always ... in-between ... now with another... a child ... from my body, into the world ... a continuous turning ... and returning ... to who I am, who I have been, who I am becoming ... this us ... the symbols and ... rituals of my family ... my culture ... to be ... to be passed on ... like a jewel ... an inheritance ... a legacy ... to stand against a world always pushing inwards ... to make me strong ... to make her strong ... strength ... in the world ... in the suffering of the world ... being responsible for another life ... is daunting ... sometimes ... I close my eyes... surrender to the darkness ...
In a dim light…
The setting is rural Japan in the middle of the night. The 100-year-old house stands nestled between mountains, bamboo, rice paddies and the sea. It is made of wood and filled with tatami mats and screens. Time passes slowly. The weather is changeable and so am I. I cannot sleep. I wander in this liminal space. Displaced in a foreign land. Listless, awake, the edges of self beginning to fray.