‘Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Calder, Monet, Vuillard, Bonnard, van Gogh, Stuart Davis, and Hockney have all been very real influences to me. When I was a young child, my family would speak about these artists as examples of greatness in painting. I guess even then I took them seriously because these are the artists I ended up fashioning my studio practice after’
(J. Wood, quoted in interview with E-L. Tovey, Dossier, 3 April 2012).
‘Both steeped in tradition yet completely fresh, Wood captures the impossible sharpness of modernity with the familiar feelings of home’
(P. Frank, ‘Jonas Wood Invites You Into His Colorful, Warped Painted Interiors’, in The Huffington Post, 30 September 2013).
Wood’s visual language is embedded in a rich network of art-historical reference. In Untitled (M.V. Landscape), the artist’s engagement with the work of his forbears produces a vocabulary that – much like his subject matter – is both familiar and startlingly new. On the one hand, his deliberate focus on everyday experience, combined with his vibrantly enhanced palette, invokes the language of Pop Art – particularly in relation to Hockney’s domesticated landscapes and gardens. On the other hand, the work juxtaposes various elements culled from the history of European Modernism. The amplified sensory immediacy of Wood’s subject matter, thrust to the frontal plane of the canvas, recalls Paul Cézanne’s deconstruction of pictorial space. The influence of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso is palpable in the work’s collision of multiple perspectives, whilst its tonal spectrum is almost Fauvist in its saturation. In places, Wood’s flattened chromatic planes bring to mind Henri Matisse’s cut-outs: discrete geometric segments lyrically choreographed across the surface of the canvas. The work’s subject matter, however, transports us to the realm of Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh, whose own rarefied landscapes were imbued with a deep sense of psychological unease. Like Edward Hopper’s depictions of American suburbia, Wood transforms Martha’s Vineyard into a disquieting ghost-town devoid of human activity. Its fractured surface draws us into a hall of mirrors – an illusory space of doubt and paranoia. Movement is glimpsed out of the corners of our eyes; presence lurks in the shadows; light flickers in the rooms that tower above our head. Dwarfed by the physical grandeur of the canvas, our sense of spatial awareness is thrown into disarray. As the strength of Wood’s memory amplifies, we begin to lose our grip on reality.
The ruptured sensory experience induced by Wood’s paintings is directly linked to his fragmentary working method. Like Peter Doig – an artist whose aesthetic resonates strongly with that of the present painting – Wood works from a personal archive of concrete and half-remembered images. Many of his compositions are based on collages of his own photographs and found imagery, which are subsequently filtered through various layers of drawing. He frequently repeats these processes over the course of a single painting, using them to troubleshoot formal dilemmas. ‘I look to drawing first’, Wood explains. ‘I’ll take a picture of the painting and print it out on drawing paper, get the coloured pencils and try to figure some shit out. I’m less of a de Kooning and more like Lichtenstein so it’s a compositional decision, I guess’ (J. Wood, http://www.artnews.com/2015/01/06/bill-powers-talks-with-jonas-wood/ [accessed 12 September 2015]). On top of this carefully-calculated structure, Wood creates a fluid, tactile painterly surface that operates in counterpoint with the work’s geometric underlay. At times the surface is scrubbed and raw, allowing the weave of the canvas to penetrate the pigment. Elsewhere, thick passages of colour bleed into one another, escaping the confines of their allotted segments. In places, the sheer flatness of the paint produces a flawless, impenetrable finish, whilst in others, Wood leaves traces of his own brushstrokes, allowing streaks of impasto to hover upon the surface of the canvas. These abstract painterly membranes work in subtle dialogue with the landscape’s formal properties. Through the interaction between surface and structure, Wood creates a powerful sense of flux: a shifting compositional matrix that continually deflects our gaze. We perpetually lose our bearings, only to return home again seconds later. It is this dialogue – between the familiar and the unheimlich – that defines the present work.