The Magical Imagineer – A Tribute to an Extraordinary Talent

Gordon Johnson Exhibition

Jim Ledwith meets the “Wickerman”

A wonderful exhibition of work by the late Gordon Johnson, model maker, teacher and writer, was officially launched on Saturday afternoon at Fermanagh County Museum. 

For the first time, Gordon Johnson’s models, drawings, paintings, photographs and writings have been brought together in one exhibition to highlight the artist’s range and skill.

Gordon Johnson (1936-2012) has inspired, uplifted and entertained people of all ages through his work.

This exhibition features elements borrowed from the artist’s family, the National Museums Northern Ireland and Fermanagh County Museum’s own collection.

From the beautifully crafted models of the Titanic to Myrtle the Train and the ‘Last Bus Home’, Gordon Johnson’s work is truly stunning, meticulously researched and keenly observed.

It will continue to put a smile on people’s faces in years to come.

The exhibition was officially launched by Jonathan Bell, Head Curator (Retired) of the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum.  Jonathan, who had the pleasure of working with Gordon said: “Models in museum displays should be accurate, but they should also be enchanting. Gordon Johnson’s models are both. In the 1990s, we used Gordon’s unique abilities to bring our transport collections to life, showing the kinds of people who would have used forms of transport ranging from a Celtic war chariot to the Titanic.

“Gordon’s witty and sympathetic representations of all sorts and conditions of humanity means that the ultimate focus of all his work is on people, and ways in which we can understand them.

The great cavalcade of people and things that we see in his models celebrates two of the rarest and most precious human gifts; understanding and imagination; gifts Gordon Johnson had in spadefuls.”

Speaking about the exhibition and the wonderful talent of Gordon Johnson, Councillor Bert Johnston, Chairman of Fermanagh District Council said:

“The drawings and writings documenting Gordon Johnson’s travels around the globe, as well as his illness and treatment in later life, are a testament to a man whose observations and humour were an inspiration to all those who met him, enjoyed his art or were fortunate to have been taught by him.  This exhibition is a tribute to an artist whose legacy lives on to inspire future generations.”

Sarah McHugh, Manager of Fermanagh Museum Services, said: “Through the exhibition, people of all ages will delight in an imagination which knew no bounds, combined with an ability to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Gordon Johnson was an inspirational man.  ‘The Magical Imagineer’ would not have been possible without the tireless energy and support of Gordon Johnson’s widow, Toni, as well as his children and grandchildren who have all contributed to the exhibition.”

Speaking of his memories of his father at work, Jason Johnson said:  “There was a time when the rustle of a mouse in the attic was exciting news in the Johnson household.  The trap would be laid, the snap followed, and our dad would inspect the dead little beastie.  ‘Ohh, ’he’d say, ‘it’s got a lovely coat.

’The rodent would be taken to his workshop, have its fur removed, cleaned and preserved and the rest of it would be placed, with thanks, under the compost heap.  The lovely coat would reappear in a Stone Age scene in one of his models – a beautiful, tiny animal skin for a beautiful, tiny Stone Age person. Gordon Johnson did things his way.”

The exhibition continues until 31 October 2014.

Myrtle is the wonderful creation of "magical imagineer" Gordon Johnson.


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