‘The interiors began as reflections on the spaces I grew up in. My grandfather collected a lot of art in a short period, for not even twenty years in the 1960s and ’70s, so I grew up surrounded by this art: Warhol, Bacon, Motherwell, Jim Dine, Larry Rivers, Calder ... And my grandparents’ and parents’ homes were very aesthetic places, packed with images and objects. It all seeped into me. These are the spaces that inspired me to become an artist, and so they were a natural choice for subject matter’
‘Matisse’s masterpiece The Red Studio, 1911, is a significant ancestor to Jonas’s interiors’
—M. N. HOLTE
In Jonas Wood’s Untitled (Downstairs), we are plunged into the depths of the artist’s psyche. Depicting two artworks suspended above a chest of drawers in an unidentified room, the work belongs to the series of interiors that constitute a major strand of his output. For Wood, who grew up surrounded by art, the interiors represent a scrapbook of the visual environments that stimulated his imagination as a child. ‘The interiors began as reflections on the spaces I grew up in’, he explains. ‘My grandfather collected a lot of art in a short period, for not even twenty years in the 1960s and ‘70s, so I grew up surrounded by this art: Warhol, Bacon, Motherwell, Jim Dine, Larry Rivers, Calder ... And my grandparents’ and parents’ homes were very aesthetic places, packed with images and objects. It all seeped into me. These are the spaces that inspired me to become an artist, and so they were a natural choice for subject matter’ (J. Wood in conversation with A. V. Sharp, 9 November 2011, in Jonas Wood: Interiors, exh. cat., Anton Kern Gallery, New York, 2012, p. 56). Within a practice dedicated to exploring the slippages of memory, the present work embodies the central tenets of Wood’s visual language. Combining subtly warped angles with deliberately flattened geometric planes, it generates an uncanny sense of dislocation, transforming familiar objects into unheimlich imposters. A disquieting sense of psychological unease permeates the scene: as we peer into the depths of the composition, seven hollow pairs of eyes stare back. By placing a picture within a picture, Wood creates a disorientating perspectival mise-en-abïme, mirroring the inarticulate feeling of déjà-vu that underpins remembrance and nostalgia.
Inspired by his art-centred upbringing, Wood’s visual language draws inspiration from a rich historical archive. His deliberate focus on everyday experience, combined with his vibrantly enhanced palette, recalls David Hockney’s Pop-inflected domestic interiors. The influence of Paul Cézanne lingers in the work’s heightened sensory immediacy, whilst its flattened chromatic planes bring to mind the cut-outs of Henri Matisse. The legacy of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, too, asserts itself in the work’s collision of multiple perspectives. Working from a mixture of concrete and half-remembered images, Wood’s approach may be said to resonate with that of Peter Doig: an artist similarly fascinated by the mechanics of memory. 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]). In Untitled (Downstairs), this process gives rise to a composition laden with a sense of its own history, reworked, recalibrated and reimagined over time.