Art in Uncertain Times: Bearing Wonderful Fruit with Jonny Green
"Lockdown started in a state of blind panic once I realized that I might be unable to get to my studio for what could be months," Jonny Green writes from Newcastle/Middlesbrough when we checked in a few weeks back for Art in Uncertain Times. "We rapidly threw together a plan of moving anything not deemed essential out of the house in order to make way for a small painting space for me at home." Fully back to painting recently after a series of different creative endeavors, he finally started to develop an all new body of work that has been percolating for the last couple of years. Summing up the way the last several months have felt, he quotes Sir Austen Chamberlain,"'May you live in interesting times," adding that, “Uncertainty and change can bear some wonderful fruit.”
After focusing on building the grotesque monster-like plasticine creatures he'd later render in a his own version of traditional portraiture, the new series swaps the hyper organic feel of soft Play-Doh for the strict lines of cutout cardboard. Resulting in what appears to be geometric abstraction, these colorful compositions actually apply realistic painting methods while working with rigid, unnatural linear guidelines. Focusing on a certain, macro-viewed segment of these creations, he accomplishes a subtle shift that becomes a miniature landscape painting by working with what looks like digitally generated scenery. But just as Green announced working on a large series of these works, the lockdown took place and altered his original plans. "While working from home, Pirate Lily became my occasional glamorous studio assistant (whenever she became bored of Paw Patrol), and has proven herself very useful when it comes to zooming in and out on the laptop when I'm trying to paint," the artist describes the way his new work routine and company looked like in the past few months.
"One of the major items to be re-housed was REX, my partner's 4-meter hi-tech Dinosaur, who would normally spend the summer being rented out to events and frightening children," Green explains as he shows us around his home/studio. Yet, as a fan of taking the life back to basics, focusing on the family and family-oriented activities, the whole period seemed to be fruitful for the artist. "Painting is a primal urge for me, more than just a habit," he is telling us about his relationship with painting. "Being confined to the house obviously presented a huge disruption for my working plans. My big project had to be temporarily shelved, but there was no point in mourning that. All I could really do was get on with something more appropriate to a small domestic scale. So, I produced something in the region of 40 paintings over the lockdown period, wildly varied in style. From Psychedelic Rococo oil paintings to my little acrylic sculptural-monster paintings. It felt like all rules were suspended and I didn't have to follow a linear path with my work. I just painted exactly what I felt like on any given day."
And this is the type of scenario we've come across a few times in our series of conversations with artists during the pandemic-bound to their creative practice and suddenly limited, we found a few of them actually enjoying the forced change of scale, technique, style, or pace. "Now we are on our way out of this bizarre period, I'm extremely excited to be back in the studio and back to these big geometric 'abstract' paintings," Green is telling us about the continuation of his big plans that were abruptly put on hold back in April. "They sit in an unusual place, being highly realized, rendered depictions of objects (see a photo of maquette) that are in themselves completely fabricated and free of any normal narrative. These are the first works I've made that are completely uncharted territory for me as I have no outside reference for them. As far as I know, there has been nobody else making similar works to this, either conceptually or visually. And I've never been so excited in the studio before." —Sasha Bogojev