Alan Jones Prints
I’ve long admired the art of Alan Jones – honest, rigorously engaging and technically intriguing. There was great anticipation when Jones, as the recipient of the Paddington Art Prize’s UNSW Art & Design award, agreed to take up the opportunity to explore the exciting potential of printmaking with students in our Paddington campus. In an industry rife with posture and hubris, it is a pleasure to collaborate with someone who exudes openness while embracing the challenge of something new. Most inspiring was seeing how he deploys good old-fashioned hard work, along with more than a modicum of talent, in the realisation of his artistic intentions.
The etchings and lithographs produced by Jones at Cicada Press are an introduction to the working routines of two mediums from a broader suite of related disciplines. Printmaking encompasses many beguiling features, none more prominent than its unique expressive range: the tactility recorded in a traditional print; the haptic manipulation of layering, scraping or cutting that together provides a record of an individual’s creative process. A painter is able to make a mark and respond to it immediately, but when a printmaker does so on a metal plate or stone it must then be processed through several crucial stages before seeing the result. This challenging change of pace encountered when embracing the arcane rituals of superseded print processes can be difficult, for the resultant print is also the mirror image of what is drawn.
When deconstructing Jones’ painting methodology, you quickly realise it is an approach that is not conventional, for his ideas are conceptually layered and applied in a unique technically procedural way of working. Using drawing as a starting point, these prints depict locations from his childhood suburb of Cherrybrook in Sydney’s sprawling north-west. Jones has clear intentions for an image, knowing exactly what he wants. He seeks a duality by revisiting the distant memory of lived experience only to sync those experiences with a depiction of what is current. It is not a literal description, but there is enough of a resonance of the familiar to provide a scaffold so that he can do what he does best – a focussed immersion into fundamental creative concerns, so crucial in the practical business of making.
Like many who have preceded him, Jones has sought to engage with printmaking because it is a tangible and intimate link to the hand of an artist that spans generations, attesting to the wonders of human ingenuity found in the phenomenal engineering achievement of print technology – along with the science of how we combine pigment, oil, water and paper under pressure to package and broadly circulate innovative images and ideas. The outcomes of his labour at Cicada Press have all the qualities that normally distinguish his work, and more. There is clarity and freshness in their execution, nuance in its kinaesthetic scope and a confidence that belies someone so new to the medium. He is also a person, like those rare individuals found in the many facets of the dynamic of human endeavour, with the uncanny ability to make the profoundly difficult look easy.
Senior Lecturer and Director of Cicada Press
UNSW Art & Design
‘Etchings and Lithographs’
7-23 November 2019
Olsen Gallery, Sydney
It might sound odd, but I think of Alan Jones as a kind of young Dutch master of the Australian landscape. His work, with it’s bleached, austere palette and fixation on the raised horizon, sometimes reminds me of Vermeer. Not because the surfaces are glassy and heightened in detail, but for the quality of stillness and introspection his work inspires. His skies possess a delicacy of touch just as his brushy bushy foliage, that always seems true, whilst pushing a tough aesthetic, accurate to the shifting conditions of light.
Jones can tramp out in to the empty flats of Gunnedah, and still find something pertinent in that dry earth and those pale sun drenched clouds. His work confronts the viewer to face their own isolation and solitude, just as it creates an immediate connection with the places we drive by or fly over. His painting is very restrained but sometimes it can burst forth with a flash of eccentricity. The large scale (almost life sized) nudes he showed with us last year and, Painting 131 (North Coogee), the work that won the Mosman art prize, revealed a nervous, slightly crazed line that can only be his. His bold characteristics as a draftsman show the spontaneity that can comes from mastering his medium. And there is also something infinitely patient and solid about his practice. Like Fred Williams, he isn’t scared of silence or the slow steps of time. His self portraits have psychological self effacing depth because they reveal doubt and it’s the doubt of the everyman, not just the young artist. A paradox where uncertainty is overtaken by modest confidence.
In a subtle way, Jones has experimented with and expanded his subject. When he made landscape from the ancient carpenter’s art of marquetry the forms were wedged together like a jigsaw puzzle. So in each scene you were dealing with a two dimensional surface reflecting a vanishing point perspective. It was the moment when his painting’s took on the quality of a Trompe L’oeil, challenging our sense of surface, contour and depth of reality. Here we see that craftsmanship belongs to high art.
When you are surrounded by a broad range of landscape painting, you grow up soaked in those traditions, it can make you a little more visually demanding, both as a dealer and a collector. Yet because landscape is the genre that continues to dominate our museums and gallery walls, it’s very important that we continue to challenge young contemporary painters to tackle such traditional turf. In the past century I think Australian art has had the tendency to either romanticise the landscape into a realm of fertile myth or, conversely, to strip it back to the rough justice of the drought. Visually, it’s either feast or famine. The subtle power of Alan Jones as a painter is that he hovers somewhere in between these extremes. His coastal scenes exude exactly that feeling of wind and water with the sparest of means. His suburban streets hold the tension of sentiment and memory. The urbane ordinariness of the subject, do not prejudice that these are thinking environments, where it’s occupants are anything but ordinary. These homes are places of powerful memory. His paddocks and mountains have the sculptural heft of someone who has probably been looking at Cezanne a little too long. The work is tough. It doesn’t ask the eye simply to drift and dream, to me it seems to place you in the heart of a landscape, and then suggest deeper questions. It’s as if the view is just the beginning, and that is what I want from a picture. A place and destination point I can return to again and again.
‘Figure and Landscape’
15 September 2018 – 15 February 2019
Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Sydney (in association with 3:33 Art Projects and Olsen Gallery)
Olsen Gallery will present Alan Jones’ next solo exhibition, ‘Cherrybrook’, at the 2018 Melbourne Art Fair. Cherrybrook is series of paintings and digital drawings that continue the artist’s work on the subject of identity. This series explores the suburb where Jones and his family lived for 18 years during the 80’s and 90’s.
2-5 August 2018
Melbourne Art Fair (with Olsen Gallery)
Southbank Arts Precinct, Melbourne
- Link to: http://melbourneartfair.com.au
The Sydney Art Quartet perform at Yellow House with guest artist Alan Jones
Butt Naked Salon was the Sydney Art Quartet’s must-see show of 2016 and it returns in 2017 with the highly awarded artist Alan Jones painting the walls of the historic Yellow House to the music of Schubert and Sculthorpe.
Restricted entry to 18+ due to nudity.
Franz Schubert: Quartet No. 13 in A minor – Rosamunde
Peter Sculthorpe: String Quartet
Butt Naked Salon II is a ticketed event and seats are strictly limited.
Butt Naked Salon II at the Yellow House is in association with Olsen Gallery.
Alan Jones invariably listens to music while he’s painting in his Alexandria studio.
But the artist has never painted in front of an audience to the accompaniment of a live quartet.
“If I think about it too much I break out in a cold sweat,” Jones admits.
The show, Sydney Art Quartet: Butt Naked Salon II, follows the first Butt Naked experience featuring artist Wendy Sharpe last year.
The venue is the Yellow House in Potts Point, which was cemented into Australian art mythology when it was used as a studio and gallery by Martin Sharp, George Gittoes, Brett Whiteley and many other artists in the 1960s and ‘70s avant garde.
In a similar spirit to the “happenings” that were once held at the Yellow House, Jones will paint straight on to an interior wall while life model Yolanda Frost poses for him.
“Part of the concept is it gets painted over and it remains part of the building, and I kind of liked that,” Jones says.
“It reminded me of live music. You play it and then it’s gone if you’re not recording it.”
For several months, Jones has been painting large portraits of Frost to hang at the Yellow House where they will become a backdrop for the performances.
“The whole thing will happen within a solo exhibition,” Jones says.
Jones lives in Coogee, and plans to prepare the walls by painting them with an evocation of the beachside landscape that he loves.
During the performances he will paint Frost into these landscapes.
But he doesn’t want to have too many fixed plans.
“It’s got to be such an intuitive thing,” he says.
Australian Art Quartet artistic director James Beck says the musicians will play compositions by Peter Sculthorpe, Gerald Finzi and Franz Schubert.
- Alan Jones and the Australian Art Quartet: Butt Naked Salon II, Yellow House, 57-59 Macleay St, Potts Point; November 29 and 30, and December 1, adults only, $85 adults, $75 concessions, sydneyartquartet.com
Elizabeth Fortescue, ‘Sydney Art Quartet teams up with artist Alan Jones in Butt Naked II’, The Daily Telegraph, 24 November 2017.
The Pat Corrigan Collection acquires Alan Jones’ 2016 painting ‘Painting 163 (Moonee beach)’.
Pat Corrigan AM is an Australian businessman, art collector and philanthropist and has been a long supporter of Alan Jones’s career. In 1997 Jones was awarded the Inaugural Pat Corrigan Travelling Scholarship for Painting from the National Art School, Sydney.
Olsen Gallery, Sydney, is hosting an exhibition of landscape paintings by Alan Jones, titled ‘Time and Space: Recent Collage’, on display till November 20, 2016.
With his works as presented in this exhibition, Alan Jones change the relationship between paint and surface into something more intimate. The landscape paintings look beautiful, as if an image from a collective memory of fond places, with fonder atmospheres. The scenes are, in a sense, a “to be expected” for the genre, but upon closer inspection, the untraditional approach that Jones employs becomes apparent. The methods and materials used to create the blunt sunlight, the beach before a rain, the sharp limbs of a tree are truly unconventional. The sunlight is in fact wood grain, the sharp limbs are laser cut, the ‘working parts’ of the landscape fit together like a puzzle because each work is a painted wooden collage. Alan creates a sight that seems ordinary at first, but later reveals the unexpected.
- The exhibition is on view at Olsen Gallery, 63 Jersey Road, Woollahra, NSW Sydney. For details, visit, www.olsengallery.com
Oliver Crowe, ‘Alan Jones at Olsen Gallery, Sydney’, au.blouinartinfo.com, 3 November 2016.