• Paul Johns

Paul Johns: Beautiful Flowers and How to Grow Them is presented at The Dowse Art Museum in partnership with City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi.

Curated by DJCS

She asked, ‘Who are you?’ Tahana laughed, ‘No one really.’

Beautiful Flowers and How to Grow Them is an exhibition of Paul Johns’ pioneering experimental portraits, captured on 16mm film and Polaroid between 1975 and 1985. Johns’ films have largely been considered the material source for his photographs. They are exhibited together here for the first time. Shot predominantly in intimate settings such as Johns’ central Christchurch studio, a Christchurch railway station near ‘the beat,’ and at a friend's Brooklyn flat on weekend trips to Carmen Rupe’s Wellington, these portraits capture the utopic energy of a generation inspired by newly politicised and subversive forms of popular culture. During a time when it was socially unacceptable to break away from imported British gender norms, and when even sexual activity was policed by the law, this generation challenged fixed expressions of identity.

The many heroes in Beautiful Flowers and How to Grow Them look at themselves in the lens of Johns’ camera with pride. Two friends put on their makeup and get ready for a night of exotic dance at Carmen Rupe’s ‘The Balcony’, a woman beams after her gender was affirmed in getting her first job as a stewardess on a southern trainline, a friend dances in and out of a closet, a Physics teacher shows off her recent transition. In silence they smile, withholding the right to keep to themselves those things one likes to whisper.

Johns experiments with representations of time, memory and authenticity. Beautiful Flowers and How to Grow Them is a testament to the freedom and self-determination that blossomed in the shadows of the Garden City at the ‘ass end of the world.’

‘Who can look on a picture of a beautiful garden without feeling the impulse to grow flowers, and what results this can have!’ - Derek Jarman.

Paul Johns is an artist based in Ōtautahi, Aotearoa, working predominantly in photography, film, neon and installation. Recent exhibitions include Perilous, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, Ōtautahi; Midnight Cowboy, Pah Homestead, Tāmaki Makaurau; Body-Maker, Olga, Ōtepoti; Listening Stones Jumping Rocks, Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery, Te Whanganui-a-Tara; Been Her Long?, Visions, Tāmaki Makaurau; Paul Johns & Billy Apple, Nadene Milne Gallery, Ōtautahi.

DJCS is an artist born in Ngāmotu, Aotearoa. Their work explores ways of redistributing care, belonging and value, and is interested in the production of political subjectivities, dreams, and violence in postcolonial world(s). DJCS is the Director of Enjoy Contemporary Art Space, Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Previously they were the Assistant Curator at Artspace Aotearoa, Tāmaki Makaurau, and were the Founder & Director of Parasite. DJCS has curated independent exhibitions and events across Aotearoa.

The Dowse Art Muesum: Opening Hours

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The Dowse Art Muesum

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  • Lower Hutt
  • Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington