Exhibition Private View for Good Government Bad Government
An exhibition by Frank Creber and Michael Johnson
The title of the exhibition ‘Good Government Bad Government’ refers to the Lorenzetti murals in Siena. These frescoes embrace the city and the wider country and the links between them, they portray the vitality and humanity but also the huge problems faced by a city-state in 1338-39; the mural is a touchstone for this collaborative exhibition.
Michael Johnson and Frank Creber have spent many happy hours, working alongside their community, at the bottom of the telescope looking upwards at the machinery of government; making images of how this labyrinthine and ever-growing institution works in practice in some of the most challenging communities in this country. Johnson, working in East Anglia, and Creber working in East London, have found an affinity in each other’s work, a connection based on a deep commitment to observe and narrate personal chronicles about the social and physical landscape of their neighbourhoods, interweaving themes of society, politics, with everyday scenes.
There are images about mistrust; people in the community feel as if no one is in control of the beast any more, and that many beloved treasures are at risk, whether that be a local park being lost to a developer, or the NHS being lost to the private sector. There are positive stories about how individuals make a community; how family life, local history, friendship and tolerance are developing a new community spirit – the paintings depict locally organised, informal and spontaneous activities that allow local voices to be heard.
Both artists work in a contemporary narrative style that is informed by murals and the Western European painting tradition.
Frank Creber’s works are informed by topographical cityscape drawings made on location in East London. Figure drawings made from observation and memory feed into the narrative process that is part of an unfolding personal visual chronicle, about the new emerging East London, both physical and social. Working for 35 years at the celebrated Bromley by Bow Centre, Frank draws upon his knowledge of the detail of people’s lives and their stories of community engagement. As Creative Director and now Community Artist for many years, he has been working alongside colleagues to develop programmes and activities that integrate art, health, training and the environment with a track record of enabling local people to develop positive relationships, create a healthy home and achieve a sense of purpose. As a painter he is focussed on an interplay of people and cityscape, this allows him to create motifs about hope, identity, regeneration, community and the tension between failure and success.
Michael Johnson was awarded a first in Fine Art at Reading University, followed by a Postgraduate Scholarship at the Byam Shaw School of Art. He has exhibited widely in solo and group shows. He has been shortlisted for the Ruskin Prize and selected for the Threadneedle Prize, Marmite Prize, Lynn Painter Stainers Prize, London Group Biennial, Derwent Art Prize, Discerning Eye, Sunday Times Watercolour competition and is a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy Summer exhibition. He has a large painting in the Museum of London collection and is represented in collections in Switzerland, Singapore, Spain, Slovenia, Dubai and Kenya. Alongside his work as a painter Michael has lectured at the National Gallery and worked as a curator for Norfolk Museums Service. He is a Faculty member at the Royal Drawing School.