Born in Sydney, Michael Johnson spent the greater part of the 1960s travelling and studying in Europe. In 1967 Johnson returned to Sydney, where his exhibition at Central Street Gallery positioned him as a leader of the new generation abstractionists. In The Field at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1968, he exhibited huge, related canvas blocks of primary colours, reiterating the concept of colour saturation explored in the 1967 exhibition. Johnson left Australia in 1969 for New York where he lived until 1975. While his commitment to abstraction remained constant, Johnson's work in the 1980s softened to include more fluid lines and brushstrokes, with colours reminiscent of the Australian bush landscape.