Mysterious femmes fatales. Suave, clean-cut gentlemen. An abundance of strange, freaky situations.
All of these things can be found in a film noir or a Hitchcock film, but they also describe the disturbing, twisted world painted by London-based artist Paul X. Johnson.
Needless to say, his visually gorgeous yet chilling work had me floored. His talents have also attracted the attention of magazines, bands, filmmakers, and advertisers. Even though his commissioned portraits of celebrities such as Kristen Stewart and Ryan Gosling are done with amazing realism, it's his imaginary world and the troubled characters that inhabit it that I find most interesting.
|Paul X. Johnson. Are You In Love with a Notion?|
|Paul X. Johnson. Cover illustration for SHOP London Magazine.|
As I've mentioned before, Johnson works in a vintage style, and I feel that he tries to reflect the mentality and the fears that defined those decades long-gone. The Western world was crippled and disillusioned by the Second World War. Veterans returned home broken in body and mind, unable to find work and unable to re-adjust to everyday life. Countries were ravaged by bombing and destruction. Whole groups of people were almost cruelly, horrifyingly exterminated. Films became darker to reflect the changing tastes of the public. Film noir and serious war films replaced the bright and bubbly Busby Berkeley musicals and Astaire/Rogers vehicles. The war, in turn, led to a paralyzing paranoia over Communism and the end of freedom. Salem witch hunt-style trials worsened the problem. People could not look at their neighbor without wondering if he or she was possibly a spy. Fast-forward to the 60s, and you have America stuck in a controversial war, the death of a promising president, and the death of a revolutionary civil rights leader. The times were dark and eerie. Fear was the dominant emotion for three decades. Fear can be seen in the stony eyes and expressionless faces of Johnson's characters. They look calm from the outside, but inside they are troubled and in turmoil. The surprising thing is that many of these emotions are still so relatable today.
Here are a bunch of other amazing prints by Johnson. Since I don't know the meaning of self-control, I'm featuring all of his works for which I could find title info. Please don't hate me.
|Paul X. Johnson. Behold a Pale Horse.|
|Paul X. Johnson. A Brutal Murder in a Public Place.|
|Paul X. Johnson. Wedding Ring.|
|Paul X. Johnson. The Disillusionist|
|Paul X. Johnson. Lose Control.|
|Paul X. Johnson. Maneater and Humans are Such Easy Prey|
|Paul X. Johnson. Mugshot.|
|Paul X. Johnson. Irina Margareta Nistor.|
|Paul X. Johnson. Cover illustration for SHOP Milan Magazine.|
|Paul X. Johnson. The Dagger.|
|Paul X. Johnson. Beyond the Sea.|
Here we have the ultimate in decadence. A couple, clean-cut and wearing expensive swimwear, relax on an island paradise with their pet panther. In the distance, a cruise ship sinks, but the couple clearly does not care. It's nothing but an amusing spectacle to them. This is probably a commentary on how we view tragedy from our comfortable place in the world.