The Fine Art Collective is proud to present Jonathan Hurry in our TFAC Residency programme – a young, emerging artist in a month-long residency at Griffin Gallery, London. We first met Jonathan a few years back when he studied at Minerva Academy. He was one of many talents that stood out to us. Both his work and working process attracted our attention, so of course we started to follow him. Jonathan is always inquiring and experimenting. In his constant search, many strong and beautiful paintings are made. We are delighted to have invited him for a TFAC Residency.
In the meantime, Jonathan graduated from Minerva last year, took part in a couple of exhibitions, moved from Groningen to the UK, and is currently undertaking an MFA at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. We visited him during the residency in the Studio Building to look at his works.
Jonathan fully realised the potential of this opportunity to paint, research and study. After four weeks of hard work in Studio 2, Jonathan came out with some new discoveries, and twelve big paintings. Read the interview here…
How is it to be back in the UK?
Being back in the UK feels a little bit like coming home after a holiday. Being on holiday has the sense of giving you a degree of freedom which being back home replaces with responsibility. I’m not sure why I associate being in the UK with being home when it comes to my art. I think it might be partly the connection of my art to the UK landscape, or maybe memories of it. But having responsibility is a good thing, because it means there’s an enduring reason and meaning in doing something.
How did you start your Residency? Did you have any plans or aims?
I knew the TFAC residency would be a great opportunity to explore more experimental uses of oil and acrylic paint, so I did some brainstorming of the many areas I hadn’t ventured in before with those mediums, and which of them were most exciting. Of course it’s always the case that overplanning is a bad thing in art, so I kept things hovering about a bit. I’d look through videos and documentation of different Winsor and Newton or Liquitex products online, daydream what I could do with them. But when I go into a studio I do whatever feels right at the time, so things quickly developed in a direction I hadn’t anticipated.
What did you learn in these four weeks?
I feel like the most significant discoveries I made in my time in the TFAC studio revolved around Liquitex acrylic ink. I had not used it much at all in the past, though my practice has always revolved around the use of very runny paint, and I found that working with a paint that was already in a state like water opened up a lot of things for me in the process of painting. Really it was a way of removing the necessity of premeditation – with paint in a highly fluid state just ready to go, it meant the way I worked wasn’t constantly hurdled with the need to pre-prepare materials.
Did you discover new techniques or materials along the way?
I discovered during the making of one painting that set acrylic ink can actually be reopened and worked into further by adding acrylic resin, which was a huge discovery for me because the quick drying time of acrylic has always been a sticking point for me. I also worked with Griffin alkyd paints for the first time, and was surprised by the difference in their working characteristics straight from the tube compared to traditional oils – much more gel-like in consistency and easier to mix with Liquin mediums.
Did you have contact with the Lab next door?
Being right next to the lab in my studio space, lab technicians would pop in from time to time and discuss my work. It was a good opportunity to discuss technical difficulties and understand the reasons why certain paints behaved in a certain way.
Concerning the acrylic ink I found out that it reopens due to having an alkali-soluble binder.
What was different working in this Residency?
Working in this residency was distinct for me from the ways I normally work mainly in virtue of the amount of space I was given to work in, which immediately gave me a freedom that affected the nature of the work, and in virtue of the wealth of materials I had immediately available. Being able to follow impulses as and when they pop up is a great thing to be able to do. It’s all well and good saying I can prepare for things, arrange my space accordingly and gather the materials I need to do something, but the passage of time often I find tends to dull impulses a bit and I end up having to artificially reanimate the desires I had when I can finally get to work. In this residency those hurdles were substantially mitigated and I think as a result I produced some very energetic and lively work.
Can you please tell us something about the works you made here?
See the painting below with the golden squares. Basically everything going on in this painting represents something new I discovered about the acrylic Liquitex ink. I originally painted the horizontal green, red and brown lines in acrylic ink with the intention of sealing them up with a layer of gloss varnish to work over some more. Upon painting the gloss varnish over them they all reopened and started merging, so I worked into them with some scraping tools to explore the effect. Afterwards I still wanted to introduce some degree of a figure-ground relationship, so I tried to add some vaguely tectonic shapes over the top. I initially used orange and red acrylic Ink mixed with string gel, but was unhappy with how unassertive this looked, so before it was dry I scraped some gold acrylic Ink over the surface of it with a palette knife. Upon setting, the thin layer of gold ink then got cracked apart by the string gel, which led to this cracked, desert floor-effect.
That’s a great discovery! Did you use it in other paintings also?
Yes, I did in the next painting with the vertical strokes too. This painting was made straight after the previous one with my newfound understanding that acrylic mediums can reopen acrylic ink. I daubed multi-coloured brushmarks of acrylic ink all over the canvas, let them dry, then once again covered the whole painting in Liquitex Gloss Varnish. This time though I was ready for the ink to start merging, so as this was happening I scraped horizontally across the surface with a home-made silicone scraper, scraping the ink away from the canvas surface to varying degrees depending on the pressure I applied, which caused these vertical bands. Ghosts of the initial daubs can still be seen inside the vertical bands, which is something I have been interested in for a long time – multiple gestures inhabiting the same pictorial space and merging with one-another physically and visually.
Are you happy with the results of the Residency?
I’m very happy with the results of the residency. I think I extended my material knowledge a good way forward, and I also developed a number of new compositional and pictorial approaches to my work that I’m excited to take forward in my future work.
What are those wrinkled colored lumps in the window sill?
The lumps in the window are remnants of painted latex from some of the paintings, which I peeled off and scrunched into balls. It’s a thick skin of artists masking fluid, which I used to shield areas of certain paintings from further layers of paint, with a thinner layer of acrylic gripping one side of it. For example, the red wrinkled lumps are from the small red and turquoise painting, where the latex was used to shield some of the strip-like areas of the initial turquoise layer from the subsequent coat of red. In areas of that painting at the boundary between red and turquoise you can see where the red paint has torn from the latex and held onto the painting in a kind of wrinkled plastic skin.
How is your Masters at Slade?
I started my Masters at Slade around the same time this residency began, and I think the work I have made here and the momentum I’ve built up will lead well into my masters studies, for of course it’s all part of the same process.
What are your objectives for the Master study at Slade?
In the Masters study at Slade I want to start picking up certain older strands of work I used to make, which I’ve maybe drifted away from in recent years, which mainly concerns a certain attitude towards the paint surface while painting. You can look at a painting surface as a site for action, conceived in a relational way between physical self and painting, which I have done a lot in recent years, or you can sort of look at the paint surface as a piece of world in itself, with its own kind of inner intensity, which you can just sort of attend to and move into. I’d like to explore that more during the Masters, because I think in working like that there’s less of a risk of being reductive about what there actually is in painting.
You graduated at Minerva Groningen. What’s the most meaningful thing you learned there?
I think the most meaningful thing I learned at Minerva is to be able to have faith in just doing things, as opposed to feeling as though there should be an intentional agenda behind doing that legitimises it. That might sound a very anti-intellectual conclusion to come away from university with, but it’s what I found. The problem with coming up with ideas and justifications for things in advance is you never actually know enough to be able to think up anything good, so you may just as well put ideas and justifications in the passenger seat and get straight to doing. Sometimes they can take the wheel, but they’re not the only ones with a license.
What is the most important element in your work?
I used to think the most important element in my work was a sense of unity. Then I thought it was an exploration of the painterly gesture, because I thought of the gesture as able to scale and pull together various conflicting qualities of painting. I think if there’s an enduring core to my work it could be the process or attempt at synthesis; bringing things together and seeing their collective structure simplify and coalesce as a result. Not unlike the notion of surreality, but where the Surrealists were focussed on the mind and dreams I focus more on material.
Why did you choose paint as material to work with?
I think the most important thing to be said about paint is that it is a brightly coloured material that scales the continua from solid to liquid and transparent to opaque. Not just regarding paint but in general, I think the most intense parts of the world exist within that area. I think, although formulated a bit naively, there’s something very incisive about the old philosophical theory of Thales that everything is made of water, and since paint manipulated is effectively coloured water, I think if there’s any truth in that theory then paint is a good way to experience it.
You’re welcome. Thank you and The Fine Art Collective team for the great opportunity!
Our pleasure, we are very happy with the way you took it!
For more about Jonathan go to: Jonathan Hurry Website
Thanks to: Mathew Gibson, Stephanie Nebbia and Mark Cann from the TFAC UK team.
Special thanks to: Cor Groenenberg and Martijn Schuppers from Minerva Academy Groningen.
Interview & Photography: Lennaert Koorman TFAC BNL
Also see the short video of Jonathans TFAC Residency here