Julie Johnstone is an artist, curator and publisher based in Edinburgh. Her exhibition at Blackie House in the city is open by appointment throughout 2018. For this installation Johnstone was invited by the writer and collector William Zachs to exhibit at his private library. Working in collaboration with Zachs, Johnstone selected books and objects in his collection to interact with her artists’ books and cards.
Johnstone’s work explores the intricacies and intimacies of observation and perception. A recent collaborative work, BREATH, began life as an interactive installation inspired by the theme of breathing. Published by her Essence Press imprint, it brought together artists and poets including Laurie Clark, Jane Hirshfield, Autumn Richardson, Jayne Wilding and JL Williams.
Her use of language displays a sophisticated understanding of the poetics of brevity. Short statements such as ‘Looking at a phrase’ and ‘Thinking about a phrase’ offer inroads into a greater appreciation of the connections between art and our daily existence.
For this current exhibition, Johnstone has developed themes of the weather, the sky and the air. “Each day we worked together brought serendipitous discoveries, and it has been immensely pleasurable to explore the tangential connections between these items and my own work,” she explains.
“The process for our project found its initial spark when Bill showed me a handwritten weather journal from the late 18th century. This took hold of my imagination.”
The display includes historical items from the collection such as almanacs, weather records, a barometer, hot air ballooning accounts, a Scots gardener’s calendar, and even a handwritten recipe for invisible ink in a notebook belonging to the 19th century ink manufacturer Thomas Stubbs. These are shown alongside works by other artists such as Roger Ackling, whose Voewood is made by the light of the sun.
1. Thomas Stubbs, ink manufacturer, manuscript notebook & recipe book, c. 1800; Julie Johnstone, visible / invisible, 2017; Penmanship medal, presented to John Carfrae, silver, c.1780. Photo: Julie Johnstone
2. Pocket Forecaster, Negretti & Zambra, c.1915; Julie Johnstone, sky viewing permit, 2017; Julie Johnstone, cyanometer, after Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, 1-100%, 2017. Photo: Julie Johnstone
3. Julie Johnstone, exercise, 2015; Margaret Morris, The notation of movement, London, 1928. Photo: Julie Johnstone
4. Julie Johnstone, forecast variable outlook calm, 2017; ‘A table of the weather at Edinburgh’, manuscript, 1783-96. Photo: Julie Johnstone
5. Julie Johnstone, ten blue pages | ten grey pages, 2017. Photo: Julie Johnstone