Figures with inscrutable expressions balance precarious cardboard headpieces and hold awkward poses as fruit, flowers, and abstract objects swirl around them. The paintings reveal Jason John's masterful realist technique broken by abstract fissures of dripping paint.
The situations are illogical. But don't look for meaning or stories behind them. “As an artist, it took me a long time to realize that it's OK to be a realist painter that doesn't tell a story,” John told MOCA Jacksonville.
John, an assistant professor of painting at the University of North Florida, describes his work as portraits of people in transition, with no relationship to allegory or narrative. Where his subjects have been or where they are going, he doesn't know.
When discussing his work, John often focuses on three central themes-identity, space and composition. All three are wrapped into the helmets his subjects wear, which he calls veils. Inspired by his passion for history, the headpieces are fashioned after Viking or Roman helmets. In his research, he learned that Vikings would appropriate visual elements from the villages they conquered into their armor, essentially destroying one thing to create another. He constructs them from cardboard and packaging, which often contain telltale symbols of their origins from Amazon or other shippers, adding an element of found art. These veils obscure the original identity of his models, allowing them to take on new roles.
Objects that could be real or projections of the subjects' thoughts drift through the paintings, hinting at the figures' identities and creating depictions of space. The fleshy exploding fruit could be mirrors of their bodies.
Born in 1980 in Detroit, Michigan, John grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He received a BFA in painting from Kutztown University and an MFA in painting and drawing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He also studied at The Waichulis Studio (now called Ani Art Academies) in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania.
John's work has appeared around the country including solo exhibitions at Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio; Texas Tech University in Lubbock; and the Sylvia White Gallery in Ventura, California. In 2012, John was inducted into the Museum of Realist Art in Boston, Massachusetts. His work has been on the covers of Bluecanvas, Art Calendar, Poets and Artists, and Visual Overture Magazine. His work has also been featured in American Arts Quarterly, American Art Collector, Manifest Gallery's International Painting Annual, Studio Visit, Creative Quarterly, and Aesthetica.
Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.