ASIA NOW artist talk | MIFA | Photo : Mayu Kanamori

ASIA NOW artist talk | MIFA | Photo : Mayu Kanamori

Pia Johnson is a photographer and visual artist, whose practice seeks to investigate issues about cultural difference, diaspora and identity. These concerns have stemmed from her mixed cultural background of Chinese and Italian-Australian descent. Pia's work engages with the social and personal aspects of understanding cultural identity, seeking to bring to the front ideas around belonging and otherness. Her work is collected in private and public collections including the National Gallery of Victoria.

Known as one of Australia’s distinctive performance photography and portrait artists, Pia has commissions from all the major and small to medium performing arts organisations in Australia, including Arts Centre Melbourne, Australian National Academy of Music, Arena Theatre Company, Belvoir Theatre, Fraught Outfit, Little Ones Theatre, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne Theatre Company, Victorian Opera amongst others.

Pia has been a finalist in many photography awards, and is regularly invited as a guest speaker and artistic advisor for a range of organisations. Her photographs have been published in Rolling Stone, The Australian, The Australian Financial Review, The Age, The Age Life and Style, The Herald Sun, The Monthly, as well as independent and cultural papers and publishing companies such as Currency Press, Black Inc and others.

Pia holds a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Visual arts) and Diploma of Modern Languages (Mandarin) from the University of Melbourne, and is currently a PhD (Fine Arts) candidate at RMIT University. She is also a sessional Lecturer in the School of Art at RMIT University.

Highlights in 2017 were two artistic commissions, the first by Punctum Inc. for Big Walk to Golden Mountain as part of AsiaTOPA, and the second by Port Fairy Spring Music Festival for the world premiere music piece My Mother's Mother by Tara Tiba and Iain Grandage. Pia completed her first curatorial project titled Chinese Whispers and Other Stories which was presented in Canberra and Melbourne to great acclaim. Plus, she was a finalist in the inaugural Martin Kantor Portrait Prize at Ballarat International Foto Biennale, and the Maggie Diaz Photography Prize for Women.

Early in 2018, Pia will be presenting a solo show She that came before me at the Manningham Art Gallery, be an artist in residence at the National University of Singapore and will also be part of the group exhibition All We Can't See, that illustrates the Nauru files with 30 Australian artists.





Selected Solo Exhibitions

2018                 She that came before me, Manningham Art Gallery, Melbourne

2016                The Widening Gyre, Stockroom, Kyneton

2014                In a dim light…, Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

2013                Fragile Light, Studio Kura, Itoshima, Japan

2013                Finding Yourself at Home Alone, Stockroom, Kyneton

2012                Who’s the Chinese lady that picks you up from school?, Queensland Centre of Photography

2009                threads, Photography, Guildford Lane Gallery, Melbourne

2009                Who’s the Chinese lady that picks you up from school?, fortyfive downstairs, Melbourne


Selected Group Exhibitions

2018                 The Family Mantle (curator and artist), Bundoora Homestead, VIC

2018                 All that we can't see, Yellow House Gallery, Sydney

2017                 The Confessional, Mailbox Art Space, Melbourne

2017                 Martin Kantor Portrait Prize, BIFB, Ballarat (Finalist)   

2017                 Maggie Diaz Photography Prize for Women, Brightspace, VIC (Finalist)

2017                  Chinese Whispers and Other Stories (artist and curator), Huw Davies Gallery PhotoAccess Manuka

                          Arts Centre Canberra & Blindside Gallery Melbourne

2017                 Big Walk to Golden Mountain, Punctum Inc & AsiaTOPA, Ballarat Gallery and Castlemaine Festival

2017                 Closing the Distance, Bundoora House

2017                 Mixed Tape, Stockroom Kyneton

2016                 Launch exhibition, Edmund Co + Traders, Hawthorn VIC

2016                 The Museum of International Connectivity, The Dirty Dozen Campbell Arcade, Melbourne CBD

2015                37° South to 19° North: Australian Photography, The Museum of the City of Cuernavaca, Mexico

2015                Maggie Diaz Photography Prize for Women, Brightspace, VIC (Finalist)

2014                Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award, Gold Coast City Gallery, QLD (Finalist)

2014                Settlings, First Site Gallery, RMIT

2013                Camera Work: Contemporary Portraiture, Black Box Gallery, Portland Oregon USA

2013                Periscope, Castlemaine State Festival 2013, Castlemaine

2013                rắn  Snake Snake Snake, Sydney Chinese New YearFestival, Sydney

2012                Make Yourself At Home, Chinalink Gallery, Sydney

2012                Mixed Media, Ausin Tang Gallery, Prahran

2010                China Obscura, Melbourne International Fine Art (MiFA), Collins St, Melbourne

2010                Making it Sacred, Photography project with Sarah Anderson, CARBON BLACK gallery, Prahran

2010                Asia Now, Melbourne International Fine Art (MiFA), Collins St, Melbourne

2010                Love, Loss and Intimacy, National Gallery of Victoria International


Awards, Grants & Residencies

2018                 Artist in Residence, National University of Singapore, College of Alice and Peter Tan

2017                 Martin Kantor Portrait Prize, BIFB, Ballarat VIC (Finalist)

2017                 Maggie Diaz Photography Prize for Women, Brightspace, VIC (Finalist)

2015                Maggie Diaz Photography Prize for Women, Brightspace, VIC (Finalist)

2014                Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award, Gold Coast City Gallery, QLD (Finalist)

2014                RMIT University Arts Council Funding Grant

2013                Punctum In-Habit International Grant for Studio Kura Japan Residency

2013                Studio Kura Artist Residency, Itoshima, Japan

2012                Australian National Academy of Music Artist Residency

2012                Take A Bow performance prize exhibition, BIFB, Ballarat and Melbourne (3x Finalist)

2012                Onward Compe ’12 Exhibition, Project Basho Gallery, Philadelphia, USA (Finalist)

2010                Victorian Multicultural Commission for Making it Sacred project

2008                City of Melbourne Young Artist Grant Program

2006                ­Hannah Barry Memorial Prize for Merit, University of Melbourne



National Gallery of Victoria

Various private collections


Positions, Teaching and Talks

2018                Guest lecturer, National University of Singapore

2017                Chinese Whispers and Other Stories, Public program and panel discussions, PhotoAccess and Blindside

2017                Masterclass Portrait Photography, Stockroom Kyneton

2017                Bundoora Homestead artist talk and children's workshop

2016 - current Board Member, Punctum Inc

2016 - current Sessional Lecturer, RMIT University, School of Fine Art Print Image Practice

2016                 Moving Image Cultures of Asian Art conference, ANU, Canberra

2016                 Immigration Museum, Guest artist talk

2016                 University of Melbourne, guest lecture

2016                 University of Melbourne, Theatre forum panelist

2014                NGV Top Arts 20th Anniversary public program talks and panel discussions

2013                Kyushu University Guest lecture and workshop, Fukuoka, Japan

2013                Onward Compe Guest talk, Tokyo, Japan

2013                Australia Commercial and Media Photographers (ACMP) Trampoline session

2011                National Gallery of Victoria, Public Programs Art Start

2010                PechaKucha at Melbourne International Fine Art (MiFA)

2009 - 2016   Founding Board Member and President, Kesho Foundation Inc,

2007 - 2011   Inaugural Board member, Australian Poetry Centre (now known as Australian Poetry)



2014 - current PhD (Fine Art) candidate, RMIT University, School of Art

2005                Bachelor of Creative Arts (Visual Arts)/Dipl. of Modern Languages (Mandarin), Uni. of Melbourne


Download full CV here