Sunday, July 01, 2012

Jonathon Jones - Oysters and Teacaups -The 18th BIennale of Sydney - INTERVIEWS

Sydney-based artist Jonathon Jones is best known for his fluorescent light installations, works which fuse aboriginal art with 1960’s American Minimalism. For his Biennale work it’s the aboriginal shell midden that is the object of inspiration; ancient mounds of shell artifacts demonstrating indigenous interrelationship with kin, country and marine life.

What interests you and indeed fascinates you about the all our relations theme of this year’s Biennale theme?

For me I’m interested in connecting and reconnecting to ancestral knowledge, ideas and concepts. The extended metaphor of all our relations is something that can encompass people, places, memory and now. These networks, dialogues and the contacts go beyond the everyday and inform the spaces we inhabit and inform my practice.

An early memory of an artist, an exhibition or a work that inspired you?

A number of years ago I attended a workshop for traditional south east Australian weaving conducted by Ngarrindjeri leader Yvonne Koolmatrie.

Meeting and learning from such a master was something that has continually shaped my own practice. Yvonne’s teachings went beyond learning techniques. I connected with the way in which Yvonne is able to reach into the past, drawing on her traditions to create contemporary forms that maintain and strengthen her culture while forging new ground. I think I was the only Aboriginal student in that class and Yvonne welcomed me and looked after me and she has been a guiding light in my practice.

Tell me about country and heritage that informs your art making Jonathon?

As a Wiradjuiri/Kamilaroi artist I’m interested in mapping, country, culture and community. Light has always provided a medium that best represents the fluidity and adaptability of these concepts.

Fusion of both 1960's conceptual art and aboriginal culture is apparent throughout your work. Tell me about this particular fusing of forms, meanings and structures?

Early minimalism movements have a direct and simple relationship to materials, often-basic familiar materials, engaging with low technology. I connect with this immediacy of minimalism in form and construction.

Working with everyday materials, tell me about this material tendency within your work?

The eel like structure in untitled (Barra) and the midden-like installation in untitled (oysters and teacups). Tell me about these works?

I often work with domestic/familiar materials as a way connecting art and the concepts that I’m interested in, with the everyday and the real. This way people can connect with the works personally through their own understanding and through their own engagement with the materials. 

For the work untitled (oysters and teacups) I have used 1000s of old teacups perchance through a variety of outlets including opportunity shops on my travels throughout rural NSW over the past year or more. Other Biennale artists are bring teacups from throughout the globe, strengthening the connection to the concept of all our relations, while others have been directly imported.

The bulk of the oysters have been collected in the Clyde River of the south coast of NSW and many have been collected over the years from family gatherings, special events and occasions. Together the two vessels, the oyster shells and teacups, represent countless engagements and gatherings, collectively hold something more than the sum of the parts.


untitled (oysters and teacups) and untitled (barra) Jonathan Jones

Where: Wednesday 27 June- Sunday 16 September, 2012, Cockatoo Island, as part of 18th Biennale of Sydney, all our relations.

See Jonathon's website:

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