Jonathan Jones Untitled (the tyranny of distance)

Within the practice of Jonathan Jones, one of the most original artists of his generation, nothing is incidental, everything is considered and deliberate and, consequently, meaning, inference and interpretation all become vitally important. Works such as homeland illuminations, 2007 (with Ruark Lewis) [homeland illuminations was based on Jonathan Jones’s (Pa’s) narratives of country and culture.], white lines, 2005, and trade mark, 2007, open up an assortment of potent and fascinating means by which we can consider history and identity and how these have impacted on this young, Sydney-based artist of the Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri indigenous peoples, as well on ourselves and our own thought processes.

At first glance it may appear that Jones has an attachment to, or a pronounced interest in, the symbolism, tools and aesthetics of modernism. But we must look deeper, or closer, if we wish to avail ourselves of a broader grasp of Jones’s practice. A few years ago, Jones created an installation titled blue poles, 2004 echoing, none too subtly, Jackson Pollock, abstract expressionism, and the consequences and implications of Pollock’s Blue Poles, 1952, being a foundation work in the National Gallery of Australia’s collection of twentieth century American art. We might also consider that Jones’s blue poles resonated with wider musings on art history, Australian art practice, and ever-relevant, ever-present dualities of inclusion and exclusion. It seems clear that in knowing art history, in referencing, in such explicit and implicit ways this art history, Jones has sought not so much to make work that merely or simply stands outside of, or alongside that history. Instead, Jones has, we might conclude, sought to make work that intelligently critiques the problematic nuances of that history, whilst simultaneously demanding for himself a place and a space well within it…

…If, as Araeen asserts, ‘Modernism… signifies that broad philosophical framework within which the modern art movement has taken place in the twentieth century, with all its diversity and disunity of forms and styles, and which also provides theoretical discourse for the evaluation and legitimisation of modern works of art’, then there can be no possible reason for Jones’s practice not to be located at the heart of the canon. Furthermore, looking at Jones’s work we might conclude that it puts art history (or more accurately, hegemonic interpretations of it) on trial. The development of African-American art in the twentieth century is inextricably interwoven with the development of modernism in the United States in the twentieth century. But few (white) art historians have acknowledged or taken any interest in this. In this sense, art history has failed plurality, and has failed people. Jones’s work tells us this and other stories… …However we approach this work, and whatever cultural reference points we might bring to it, we ought at all times to be mindful of Jones’s penchant for disrupting meaning. In this regard, his new work, like much that has gone before it, is ‘at once delightfully simple and profoundly complex’. [Lisa Slade, ‘New acquisition: Jonathan Jones 68 Fletcher, Bondi, 20:20, 8.6.03' Artemis, vol. 38, no. 1, July 2007 pp. 10-11.]

The above extracts are from an essay [pp. 8 - 11] by Eddie Chambers for the catalogue to accompany Jonathan Jones’s immersive Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation [Sydney, Australia] commission, untitled (the tyranny of distance). An installation which saw Jones presenting a compelling dialogue between his Indigenous traditions and ‘modernist’ use of fluorescent light. Held at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, Australia, 14 August - 11 October 2008.