Approved: 23.01.2014

Rachel Johnston

Artist, Community worker, Lecturer / academic, Maker

Approved: 23.01.2014

My art practice consists of two distinct, but related, strands. In the studio I create sculptural, shoe-like forms using constructed textile techniques. An intense focus on material and a process-led approach to making are central to this practice. The shoe-objects are worn in specific environments and form a starting point in the exploration of themes relating to sensory experience of place and narrative.

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Artist Statement

My art practice consists of two distinct, but related, strands. In the studio I create sculptural, shoe-like forms using constructed textile techniques. An intense focus on material and a process-led approach to making are central to this practice. The shoe-objects are worn in specific environments and form a starting point in the exploration of themes relating to sensory experience of place and narrative. An attempt to understand the space that exists between empirical measurement and a subjective experience of the world lies at the heart of this work. The shoes become manipulated and shaped through use, coming to embody a lived ‘moment’ in which layers of memory, personal history and physical engagement with place come together. Photographs documenting the wearing of the shoe-objects often accompany the pieces. The themes of place and journey-making which arise from this work are also central to the community projects that I have been involved in over many years. Working collaboratively, the relationship between image-making and narrative is explored as a starting point in understanding personal history. The most recent project with Mappa colleagues Richard Neville and Emily Lawlor was ‘Unpacking the Past’ (2007 – 2009) in which collections at Portsmouth City Museum were used as a starting point in gathering stories and visual imagery. The project, funded by HLF, resulted in an exhibition and publication.

CV & Education

Rachel Johnston

Studio address:  Art Space Portsmouth, 27 Brougham Road, Portsmouth, PO5 4PA

Institutions Attended and Qualifications

2000-2001 Goldsmiths College, University of London, Foundation Course in Art Psychotherapy                                                                                            

1991-1993 Royal College of Art, London, M.A. Fine Art                                                                

1987-1990 Norwich School of Art, B.A (Hons) Fine Art                                         

1989 Erasmus Exchange, Der Fachbereich Gestaltung Hochschule, Kiel, Germany                                     

1986-87  Hertfordshire College of Art and Design, St.Albans, Foundation Course in art.


1999 South East Arts individual award                                                                                                  

1997 Travel bursary from South East Arts.

Current Employment                                                                                                                  0.5fte Senior Lecture in Fine Art, University of Chichester and self-employed artist. Current research area: art and community. Poster presentations: ‘Fine Art Beyond the Studio’ at University of Chichester Research and Scholarship Conference 2011 & ‘The Art of Community Engagement’ at GUILDHE conference London 2012, ‘Making Stories’ paper presented at Making Futures conference, Plymouth College of Art 2013.

Teaching Experience                                                                                                                     2008                0.5fte Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, University of Chichester.                                  

1999-2008       Associate Lecturer, University of Chichester.  Teaching studio practice, mixed media, textiles and professional practice modules on BA Fine Art course.

Art in Architecture

1997-2005 Artist Consultant, Essex County Council Artists in Architecture programme:

2003-2005 Chancellor Park School, Chelmsford Worked in collaboration with the project architect to develop proposals for a scheme of artwork to be incorporated into the environment of the new school.  Included workshops with pupils, staff and members of the local community.  External gates, metal screens for the library area, tiled artwork and exhibition areas, door furniture and a   mosaic were deigned and produced. Funded by ECC ‘Per Cent’ for Art scheme.

2004-2005 Winter Gardens School, Canvey Island  Worked with infant and junior pupils to create large textile hangings for the new hall using dyeing and block-printing techniques.  A series of decorative vinyl motifs for glass were also produced. Both sets of art work were used to give identity to the space and to reflect Canvey Island’s history and landscape. Funded by Space for Sports and Art.

2001-2003 Space for Sports and Art.  Artist Consultant for Essex County Council’s new building programme.  Worked in the initial stages of the project with architects, staff and pupils at five Essex schools to develop a scheme of artwork to be located in and around new facilities.  Collaborated with artists to organise workshops and fabrication of pieces during 2003.

1998 Essex County Council Artists in Architecture - Diana Golding Centre, Braintree  The Centre provides day care for adults with profound and multiple learning disabilities. I worked with the staff and clients to develop a scheme of appropriate environmental art works, including the design and fabrication of an entrance gate.

1997 Essex County Council Artists in Architecture - Highwoods School, Colchester  As ‘Artist Consultant’ I worked closely with project architect and landscape designer to develop a series of art features to be incorporated into both the interior and exterior spaces of a new building.  I collaborated with staff and pupils to evolve a series of designs for architectural metalwork, paving and textile hangings.

Mappa                                                                                                                                              Mappa is a partnership of two visual artists Rachel Johnston and Emily Lawlor and storyteller Richard Neville. We work collaboratively with institutions and community groups to explore image-making, narrative and ownership in the context of socially engaged art practice.

2007- 2009 ‘Unpacking the Past’  A storytelling and visual art project that worked with a wide range of community groups in Portsmouth. Workshops were run in collaboration with Portsmouth Museum and Records Office and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project generated a moving range of personal stories, memories and art works. The final exhibition, September 2008 – January 2009, brought together stories, images and objects from the museum collection and moved to Portsea Library until autumn 2009.

2001-2002 ‘We Have One Moment to Talk’ During Refugee Week 2001 Mappa worked with Refugee and Asylum Seekers and the inhabitants of Dover, to collect personal stories and images for an illustrated book ‘We Have One Moment to Talk’ .Funded by Arts South East Arts.

1999-2001 ‘Maps for Life Dover’ Maps for Life Dover  A Mappa art and storytelling project with children from Refugee and Asylum Seeker families and their peers in four Dover schools. A series of art works including textile and photographic pieces made with pupils were exhibited in Dover Museum, January 2001.  We were awarded a South East Arts Regional Arts Lottery Grant and also raised funds from The Hilden Charitable Fund, Kent County Council, Dover District Council and Dover Town Council.

1998-1999 ‘Maps for Life’  We worked with pupils from Traveller families, Refugee and Asylum seeker backgrounds and their peers at Lewisham Bridge School, London. We focussed on ideas surrounding maps and journey making.  Various photographic techniques were used and we worked with a filmmaker to produce a video combining story and image.  An exhibition of the work was held at the school and moved on to Lewisham Library.  Funded with an ACE ‘Artists in Sites for Learning’ grant.

1997-1998 ‘Building the Personal Museum’, MAPPA worked with pupils at Copthorne Junior School on a project that celebrated the history and distinctiveness of the local environment as well as the pupils’ lives in the present. Funded by South East Arts.

1996 ‘A Sense of Place’, London Parish Map, Museum of London  As part of Common Ground’s ‘Parish Maps’ project, Mappa undertook an eight day residency at the Museum to create a large map of London with visitors.  Over 400 children and adults participated and the finished piece is on permanent display in the Museum.


Selected Projects and Commissions

2003-2006 ‘Pallant House Gallery Community Artwork’  I worked with visitors to Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, and with groups in the community to create a large tiled artwork, comprising of more than 400 individual pieces, for the new wing of the Gallery. Installed for opening of gallery June 2006.

2005-2006 Project Evaluator ‘Identity’ project, Friendship Centre, Portsmouth  Member of Steering Group and project evaluator for ‘Identity’ project (Art Projects for Asylum Seekers and Refugees).

2005 Burnt Mill Gate and Way Markers   I designed, and oversaw fabrication of, a gate and way markers, located alongside the River Stort at Harlow in Essex. The design reflected the natural environment and wildlife around the site. Work commissioned by British Waterways and Harlow Town Council.

2003-2004 Pride of Place, Worthing Museum and Art Gallery  Worked with service users from four West Sussex day centres to create a series of sculptural art works in response to the Museum collection.  The finished pieces were exhibited at Worthing Museum in January 2004

2000 Southern Shapes   Created five sculptural pieces in a variety of materials with service users in West Sussex day centres. Exhibited at Worthing Museum, Sept 2000.

2000-2001 Essentially Essex  Multi-media community arts project, reflecting the lives and experiences of people living in Essex during the Millennium Year. Minories Gallery, Colchester

1998-1999 Colchester & Tendring Hospital, Children’s Ward Art Project  Worked as part of a team of five artists to develop, in consultation with staff, patients and visitors, a series of art works for the ward. I designed and oversaw fabrication of two decorative metal gates as well as creating a series of etched metal tactile wall pieces with Emily Lawlor.

1994-1998 Public Art Projects at Free Form Arts Trust, Hackney, London.

I worked as lead artist on numerous projects with the Free Form team of artists, architects and project managers, designing and producing artwork for public spaces.  Major projects are listed:

{C}·      Bolton Radial Routes Scheme 1998 

{C}·      Beatrice Tate School, Bethnal Green, London 1996 - 97

{C}·      Equal Play Therapy Pool, Stamford Hill, London 1996

{C}·      Barking Town Quay, Lighting Project, Essex  March 1996

{C}·      Gunthorpe Street, London  1995 - 1996

{C}·      Ram’s Episcopal School, Hackney, London 1995

{C}·      Canal Markers, Kingsland Road, London 1994



I have worked in numerous museums, galleries, community environments and schools. A few of these are listed here: Horniman Museum, London,  Pallant House Gallery Chichester, D-Day Museum Portsmouth, Chichester High School for Girls, Bexley Family Centre, WEA and National Trust’s ‘Heritage Education for All’ project. Bexley Council for Racial Equality, Aspex Gallery Portsmouth , Science Museum London.


September 2010 - March 2011  I worked with artists from Unity Arts Trust in Chichester, giving support in setting up and running community based arts projects with the local hospital and a community centre.


Solo Exhibitions

2012           ‘One Kilogramme of Red Wool’, GASP, Art Space Portsmouth

2001           ‘Journey’,  Hall Place, Bexley, Kent


Group Exhibitions

2013           ‘Liminal’, Otter Gallery, University of Chichester

2011           National Trust: Mottisfont House, Romsey. Open exhibition

2008-09      ‘Unpacking the Past’, Central Gallery, City of Portsmouth Museum and Records Office

2007          ‘Techne’, Otter Gallery, University of Chichester

                 ‘Fresh Air’ 2007, The Quenington Sculpture Trust, Gloucs, with Emily Lawlor.

2005           ‘England Expects’, City Museum, Portsmouth.

2004           Staff show, Otter Gallery, University College Chichester

2002           ‘Land’.  Artsway, Sway, Hampshire

                   ‘Latitude’.  Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

2001           ‘Key Works’.  City Museum, Portsmouth.  Interpreting the Museum collection.

         ‘2001 An Odyssey’, Minories Gallery Colchester. Essex Millennium Project              ‘Fleeting Visions’, Dover Museum, Kent.  Mappa, ‘Maps for Life’ final exhibition.

2000           ‘Body Language’.  Trinity Arts Centre, Tunbridge Wells.

1999           Ione Gallery, Bepton, West Sussex

                   ‘Vessel’, Hamphire Sculpture Trust at Portsmouth Cathedral

                   ‘Artists in Architecture’, a travelling exhibition to Essex libraries.

                   ‘Shift 2’, Hampshire Sculpture Trust, Winchester.

1998          ‘Shift’, curated by Michael Kenny, Aspex Gallery, Ports