Jess Johnson was born in Tauranga, New Zealand in 1979. In 2016, she relocated permanently to New York after twelve years of living and working in Melbourne, Australia. Her practice is influenced by the speculative intersections between language, science fiction, culture, and technology. Her drawings depict complex worlds that combine densely layered patterns, objects, and figures within architectural settings. Johnson’s drawings are often displayed within constructed environments that act as physical portals into her speculative worlds. Her recent collaborations with Simon Ward have involved translating her drawings into animated video and virtual reality, giving audiences the simulated experience of entering the hypnotic realms depicted in her drawings. Johnson’s work has been exhibited at Jack Hanley Gallery, New York, NY; Art Basel, Hong Kong, China; Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland; Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan, China; Centre Clark, Montreal, Canada; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; Alaska Projects, Sydney, Australia; Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch, New Zealand; Artspace, Auckland, New Zealand; and National Gallery of Victoria, Heidi Museum of Modern Art, Monash University Museum of Art, and Gertrude Contemporary, all in Melbourne, Australia.
Simon Ward worked in feature film costuming for ten years. During this period, he developed a video making practice which eventually became his major focus. His work in video and animation is varied and usually involves collaboration with musicians, writers or visual artists. He has made over 50 music videos, directed three seasons of an animated comedy series, and his video and virtual reality collaborations have been shown in New York, Tokyo, Hubei, Edinburgh, San Francisco, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Hong Kong. Influenced by the history of cinematographic special effects and animation and new developments in virtual reality technology, his work involves generating visual imagery that mixes reality with the fantastical.