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Jason John continues his journey through realism

Jason John continues his journey through realism

August 23, 2016 // by MOCA Staff

If you visited MOCA Jacksonville in fall 2014, you might have caught a glimpse of Jason John painting in a studio on the Museum's third floor. He worked there several days a week throughout the Get Real: New American Painting exhibition, which also included his work.

An assistant professor of painting in the University of North Florida Department of Art and Design, John's work has appeared all over the United States, including solo exhibitions in Cincinnati, Ohio; Lubbock, Texas; and Ventura, California. As he prepares for an exhibition at Florida Mining Gallery, we asked him a few questions.

Jason John Get Real Paints in Studio a
Jason John paints in a third-floor studio at MOCA Jacksonville during the Get Real exhibition in 2014. Image courtesy of Jennifer Grissom.

Describe your style to those who might not be familiar with your work.

I like to explain my work as psychological-based realism. I am more interested in using realism to explain the inter-mechanics of identity and how identity is shaped through an individual's life and circumstance. Personally, I find I am more interested in non-objective descriptions of reality. I wonder if this is where things are heading. I also feel I am pretty early on this journey.

What have you been doing since Get Real?

Much of the time since Get Real had been dedicated to applying for tenure at the University of North Florida, where I teach. I just received my tenure approval last spring. I have also contributed work to a few shows in California in 2015 and 2016.

Jason John Buy Her Love e
Jason John, Buy Her Love. Oil on canvas, 62 x 36 inches.

How would describe the experience of painting at the MOCA Jacksonville studio throughout the exhibition in front of visitors and those watching on live-streaming video?

The MOCA residency was an amazing experience because I was able to hear first hand perceptions of my work from Museum visitors. Most of the visitors would stop by my studio after seeing the show and explain their deepest feelings about the work.  I found such an experience to be unbelievably insightful. Visitors to the Museum were amongst a wide range of people, so experiences varied quite a bit, but the non-art literate audience had the most amazing insights.

How did Get Real affect your career?

For me, Get Real gave me one of my first opportunities to see so many of my recent paintings together. It became much more clear to me the direction that the work was heading in. I was also able to see the kind of presence the work had standing next to other great painters. Many local and national publications came out of the show. I was able to hear from viewers of a wide range how they interpreted the work. This was one of the first opportunities to hear such honest feedback since graduate school. Overall, the whole experience was highly beneficial.

Jason John Get Real Visitors Watch Studio b
Visitors watch Jason John paint in a third-floor studio at MOCA Jacksonville. Image courtesy of Jennifer Grissom.

How has your work progressed in the last two years?

In the last two years, my work has gotten bigger and more colorful. I have been also making the environments more realized and complex, melding with the figures much more.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I am preparing for a solo exhibition at Florida Mining Gallery. I would like to have much of the show be new work since Get Real. After the FMG show, I would like to follow up with a few more solo exhibitions.

How do you approach working with your students at UNF?

I try to be as honest as I can about the realities of being an artist. As a painting professor, I try to get my students to think about all of the possibilities and qualities of paint-- to understand paint as a possibility to express their concepts and ideas. At UNF, we make all types of paint from pigment. This, I hope, will give the student a better understanding of the making of all paintings and why contemporary painters use the paint and methods they do. When Get Real was up, it was nice to visit the show with my students and explain how and why the artists of the show painted the way they did. Many of the contributing artists answered questions posed by the students. 

Jason John 2B1 d
Jason John, 2B1. Oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches.

Who are some of the subjects in your recent paintings?

In the past, I used models I was pretty close to, but I have been getting better at knowing what kind of model/person I want to use. I will meet someone and say, “Hey, will you model for me?” I have been hiring more models. I do still prefer to know who the models are, but I have worked blind a few times since the show, although I don't prefer it.

How do you juggle teaching, making art and all the activities related to that, and your personal life?

I really feel that teaching keeps me on a focused path. I don't feel I can paint all day, every day as an artist/teacher, but I still plug some good hours on a regular basis. I really have to be strict with my schedule.

Jason John Bottom Feeder h
Jason John, Bottom Feeder. Oil on canvas.

What artists or things inspire you?

Most of the artists that inspire me have little relation to the kind of work I do. Most of my direct inspiration comes from social/political science fiction. I am also a big fan of music. I feel that music provides me with a way of experiencing an artist who is creating worlds in a non-visual way. In some ways, music engages my paintings from a different direction. In the summers, I teach in Italy. I always come back super-inspired and ready to work.

What might people be surprised to learn about you?

When I have time, I like to make beer.

Do you have any exhibitions planned for the future?

I will be having a solo exhibition at Florida Mining Gallery in Jacksonville in September. [Crossing the Threshold of Self opens September 30 with an artist's talk at 6 p.m. RSVP here.] I will also be participating in a show at Sirona Fine Arts in Miami in December.

Jason John Two Sticks f
Jason John, Two Sticks. Oil on canvas, 46 x 32 inches.




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