“I make work for me”: Jonah Pontzer on his painterly depiction of sexuality, digital culture and pornography
The American painter, based in London, creates optical and colour-loaded works that come riddled with context – be it art history, adult media or contemporary issues.
- Ayla Angelos
- 24 March 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
From heaven to his studio, Jonah will succumb to a varying day that usually involves mixing colours by hand, as his pieces rely heavily on the individual “blobs” with minimal blending and glazing. “This contributes to the optical effects of the subject matter when viewed at a distance – up close, it’s a puzzle piece mess.” A typical palette, he explains, consists of as many colours as 50-120, and it can take him around two or more days to mix up the right amount for a single painting: “kills my hands.” Proceeding, he will zone out in his live-work space and you’ll often find him in his pants at 3am with 20 brushes in his hand, “probably a couple in my mouth, just doing my thing”. It’s also good to note that no painting starts the same, and all can begin in a different manner of execution – something he puts down to the fact that he’s terrified of boredom.
On the topic of his recent works, Jonah’s recently closed exhibition saw the artist explore the personal experiences of those affected by the AIDS crisis – with the angle that is “gleaned from historical pornography, adult media and personal photographs, mixed in with current climate issues around sexuality, health and stigma.” The series is an explicit and painterly depiction of sexuality and contemporary issues. Jonah’s process for this collection saw him source imagery from social media channels, historical films and media, plus his own physical interactions, and transfer them into painted form.
Although heavily loaded with historical and contemporary context, Jonah’s work is never intended to provoke. “I have zero expectations of my audience (if I even have one),” he adds. “My grandmother told me when I was little that what anyone else thinks of or about me is none of my business. I just live a lively life, make what I feel like making and hope that it resonates.” He concludes: “I made the work for me.”