Not long back from 24 hours in Edinburgh and still buzzing about Jonathan Owen’s new work. I have that visceral feeling when a piece of work really gets to you.
I’d spent the morning sitting close by one of Owen’s new sculptures – a marble bust of a nasty 19th century French General. The bust, bought at auction by Owen, had been elegantly but systematically re-modelled, its head hollowed out and turned into a ball-like structure – faceless, sinister and mesmerising.
Later we went to meet Jonathan in his new studio at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. A very impressive facility with a large outdoor space for the resident artists to make large scale work. Jonathan told us that though he trained as a painter, his fascination is working within a tight framework of taking things away rather than adding things in.
It’s led him away from paint. He experimented with collage but found the works with the least intervention were the works he liked most. So he stopped using glue and started to remove parts of the images directly by cutting into them, forming intricate assemblage. Then using a rubber, he started to erase, with great precision, parts of the image from found photographs in books, often of Hollywood film stars. He also carved elaborate tiny labyrinths inside wooden Don Quixote figures once sold as souvenirs in Spain.
And now he’s buying 19th century marble sculptures at auction and erasing parts of these too, carefully carving away to create ring like structures that link the exposed pieces together. A once bold or heroic subject immortalised in marble becomes an altogether more vulnerable proposition in Owen’s hands. This artist is on an intriguing journey just now.
Owen has a solo show at Ingleby in 2014.
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Radar is written from a collecting perspective and features work primarily by new and emerging artists.
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