MG Walker and Ellen Johansen

The global pandemic has brought into relief experiences of separation, grief and loss for many, as old patterns and traditions of social gathering and cultural bonding are disappearing. 

At the same time, new pathways of cooperation and seeds of remarkable creativity are appearing. 

The collaborative mixed media paintings are based on Johansen and Walker's
artistic interpretation of the historical survey, 'Coffee Houses of Wellington 1939 to 1979: coffee in pre-espresso New Zealand' by Craig Miller

Following an Auckland exhibition of the first five images in the series in 2017, the
artists described the inspiration that prompted them to make the works. 'Our
interest in coffee, making coffee and the history of coffee led us to discover Craig
Miller’s large format book on the history of coffee in New Zealand, published in
2015. We decided to make a series of small works-on-paper responding to this
history, focusing on the visual history contained in this book. There is also a
personal connection for us to this frame of history (1939-1979). American
servicemen and women were stationed in New Zealand during the Second World
War. Ellen, who is an American/New Zealand artist, grew up in America, listening
to stories from her father who was stationed on a US naval vessel near the Great
Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia during the Second World War. The history of
coffee in Wellington during these forty years describes the pivotal role US
servicemen and women played in converting New Zealand from a largely
tea-drinking nation to a culture that began to include coffee drinking and places to
drink coffee.  


Born in London, United Kingdom, Michael lives and works as an artist in Auckland, New Zealand. Trained in London at Goldsmiths College and Central School of Art & Design in painting and printmaking from 1974 to 1986 and later as a psychologist in the United States (1998), Michael’s art practice spans three decades. His intricate brush & ink drawings of multiple figures explore ideas of human transformation, socially, politically and spiritually. His work currently focuses on icons of power, as they undergo exposure, re-visioning and re-formation. Recently, he has collaborated with the US-born, New Zealand colour field painter, Ellen Johansen, to produce multi-layered compositions that draw inspiration from Western and Eastern mythology. Michael has exhibited in the UK, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.


Born in New Jersey, United States, Ellen lives and works as an artist in Auckland, New Zealand. She studied painting at the University of Washington (Seattle), and has a MA in psychology from California State University, Sonoma. Ellen completed her Masters degree in painting at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design in Auckland. She currently exhibits in New Zealand, teaches creativity in her studio on Waiheke Island, Auckland and coaches individuals and groups in creativity development. Her art works are primarily landscape-inspired abstractions comprised of fields of fluid colour in which nature’s textures, patterns and colour relationships are explored. Ellen’s art practice involves visual immersion in natural settings that can serve as a contemplative recollection of connectedness with and appreciation for wilderness. In a concurrent strand of studio practice, she also collaborates with UK-born, New Zealand artist, M G Walker to create colour fields that provide a context for his finely-drawn political, social and mythical narratives. Ellen’s works have been included as finalists in the Walker & Hall Waiheke Art Award and in the New Zealand Painting and Printmaking Award.