Ottawa artist Jon Curry started painting in 2008. He creates a world beyond the natural, full of memories and wonderment in his collection of figurative canvases.
Curry’s aesthetic is deeply in tune with nature and his environment, his work as a tree planter forming the soul and foundation of his art, his beautiful canvases drawn from the well of physicality he’s exposed to over a six month period in Western Canada planting trees, reinvigorating the land. Curry is a self-taught artist who uses industrial tools to create whimsical, imaginative works of art. His independence from any training or obvious art influence resulted in an original approach to completing a canvas. A visit to his Ottawa studio reveals a surprising display of tools more suited to house construction than art making. Among them are plaster scrapers, electric sanders, scrub brushes, sandpaper, plastic webbing and raw burlap. Using these tools he applies pigments of muted blues, greens and grey in thick overlapping waves and then scrapes away or sands through the layers of paint.
Throughout all this activity Curry keeps an eye out for the emergence of a small patch of something recognizable. Usually it’s a small portion of a human figure or creature. Once identified, Curry controls the painting by revealing more and more of the figure. The finished image is human or animal, or an otherworldly combination of both. Curry’s human and anthropomorphic creations emerge as if from the mists of time, ancient, wondrous and mystical, speaking to us the way children’s fairy tales and nursery rhymes have over the centuries.
“The excitement of moving forward into the unknown is the driving force behind my work. Each painting begins differently and without a plan. Moving forward in an abstract style I focus on developing textures and colours using a variety of abrasive devices to manipulate acrylic gels and paints. Artifacts of this process eventually suggest an aspect of the body such as an eye or a finger. At this point, the style of the painting switches from abstract to figurative as a subject grows from this body part and is developed as fully as possible according to the rules it generates. For example, if the eye is facing left, the body grows behind it to the right. Once the figure has reached full expression, I try to destroy the painting. Using everything from power sanders to boiling water I try to remove the image and return the painting to it’s abstract origin so I can move forward in search of a new subject. Sometimes this process takes years, and occasionally the canvas falls apart before I can find an image that deserves to exist where so many before it have been dismantled.”
These paintings fall into the realm of magic and mysticism, the shapes are primal, the colours earthy, the marks bold, expressive, rooted in animism. These are pictures that venerate the primacy of the natural world, they are rooted in the cycle of life, death, decay and rebirth and our symbiotic relationship with our delicate enviroment. His art is a call to arms, is a means to ignite our passion for the environment and the beauty of the natural world.
Jon graduated from the Humber College Industrial Design program in 2006 and is currently living in Ottawa. Jon has exhibited his work in solo shows in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto.