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Brian Johnson was trained as an art teacher and has taught painting, photography and history of art for a number of years.  

From 1976 to 1996 he was principal of the Frank Joubert Art Centre in Newlands. Here he taught painting, history of art, and photography. He also taught photography part time at Cedar House, an independent school in Kenilworth.

In 1989 he was awarded a D.Litt et Phil degree from UNISA for his thesis on the architecture of Sir Herbert Baker.

Enamel has been used for about 4000 years to decorate metal.  It has been done on gold, silver, bronze, or (as in this case) on copper.   The designs are applied by hand either by painting or in-laying with powdered glass.  Engraving, wire inlay (cloisonné) or silver foil is used in different ways for effect.  The result is fired in a kiln or by torch.    

During the 1970’s enamelling was a popular craft even here in South Africa and the materials were stocked by a number of the craft shops throughout the country.    But like macramé, and jewellery made out of epoxy clay, it faded out. Brian had acquired some powders and a stove-top kiln, and made a few enamel cufflinks and earrings.

There matters rested until Margaret Fairhurst established an enameller’s guild in the 1980’s, and for ten years promoted the art, taught interested amateurs and generally kept interest alive.   Brian became secretary of the guild, but eventually even this initiative failed to spark a revival of the craft in South Africa.   The materials were not being stocked locally and equipment was difficult to find – as is still the case.

Enamelling is taught at some tertiary institutions as part of jewellery design and there are a number of very skilled practitioners of the craft in this industry in the Cape Town area.   Brian has developed the art of enamelling more particularly as a pictorial medium.
The process is very time-consuming.   The copper needs to be cleaned thoroughly and coated with a layer of transparent flux.   At this stage wire (which can be copper or fine silver, drawn to a rectangular section) can be inlaid into the flux, and silver foil applied for greater reflectance.  After re-firing, colours are inlaid and re-fired.  The projecting wire is “stoned” down and re-fired until the desired effect is achieved, often only after numerous firings and stonings.   Enamels can also be “dusted” on, or painted in diluted form. Working with a gas torch allows for “reduction” effects similar to those in ceramics but is not suitable for use when silver wire is involved.

Brian has sold work in galleries in the UK and to local collectors.


Dream now, dream not, the annual Winter Solstice Exhibition, The Cape Gallery

Brian Johnson
View larger image
Title:Emergence I
Size: 10 x 10 cm
Media: Enamel
ID: 27435
Price: R 3 500 Framed
On Show I Where to find us I The Gallery I On Exhibition I ArtistsI Payment details

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