MAdness - 60"x60" - oil on canvas - March 2014 - Michael Burris Johson

Madness – 60″x60″ – oil on canvas – March 2014 – Michael Burris Johson

MAdness (detail)

MAdness (detail)


Madness only exists within reason, as unreason

Madness is identified in the figure of the madman

The madman, is kept in a space of confinement within order, similar to the way the concept of madness is held in place by a larger system of discourse based on reason, order, and knowledge

Understanding of madness is the conversion of the raw energy of the madman to bits of discourse based on observation of the madman in confinement – the scratched birds of the painting become gridded birds of order – the dispersion of madness into reason

The painting attempts to form a synthesis between the critical consciousness and the tragic experience of madness

Without reason, madness ceases to become madness, and is instead one of many possibilities of consciousness – If consciousness is a large circle, reason is a concentric circle within consciousness, and madness a concentric circle within reason

The white birds are brighter than what can be contained by reason, and fly outward toward something further, illumined by something interior, unmatched by the exterior lighting of reason

– Michael Burris Johnson, March 2014

About Michael Johnson


  1. Reblogged this on Hogs Blog and commented:
    This is my favorite work from artist Michael Burris Johnson.

  2. This is stunning.
    Also, have you read Plato on madness/mania?

    • Thanks so much – I have not read Plato on madness/mania, in what book can I find what you reference?

      • It’s in the first half of the Phaedrus–Mania is a gift of the gods and the basis of all true art/inspiration, writes Plato. I find it fascinating that the philosopher whom we most associate with reason/logos/rational discourse should suddenly, over just a couple pages, write so beautifully in defense of madness.

      • Excellent, I’ll have to look into the pages you mention – your comment brought to mind Emily Dickinson’s line “much madness is divinest sense” – I think there is something about the raw, unfiltered energy of mania/madness that is both universally desired and yet incomprehensible – inspiration often feels like becoming possessed, or being filled with energy that comes from the outside – the phenomenon is such a fascinating occurrence it is difficult to think through it without bringing in some sort of irrational, faith-based explanation like a gift of the gods or the whispers of wraiths – this is just the sort of discourse that would bring reasonable or rational thought to a limit or threshold – attempting to explain madness becomes its own sort of madness. Really appreciate your comment, many thanks for your words

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