Sunday 6 June 2021

Jon Redmond

 When this image turned up online, my first thought was something along the lines of 'Wow!' and my second was, Who painted this? An intense, boldly worked still life of everyday objects, it's clearly in a tradition that stretches back from the present to Manet, to the great Dutch still-life painters and to Velazquez. Could it be a contemporary painting? Well, yes, it could: it's called 'Silver', and it's by one Jon Redmond, a Pennsylvania-based painter of whom I had never heard. 
  I immediately sought out more, and found a good many online, also an interview with the artist, who has been exhibiting for 20 years or so, and seems uncommonly sensible for a contemporary artist (which may be why he isn't better known). Redmond paints landscapes and buildings as well as still lifes and interiors, all drawn from his immediate surrounding in Chester County. His paintings are very much about the play of light on surfaces, and his technique is vigorous and immediate, painting alla prima (wet on wet), without preliminaries, least of all any line drawing – 'I hate line. I want to do the searching and struggling while I am painting, because that is when the painting becomes interesting ... What is important is what is happening on either side of where a line would be.' And he likes to show his workings, leaving areas unfinished.
  He has no anxiety about influence or tradition and is happy to channel, for example, Degas, as here, in this accomplished nude, which explores the play of light on convex (the model) and concave (the bath) surfaces –

Redmond also sees no need to make a fuss about being 'contemporary': 'If you try to be "contemporary" your work will suffer. We are contemporary by being alive today, so why work hard at it?' He is attracted by 'ordinary', simple subjects rather than by big and obviously picturesque ones. 'The most important thing,' he says, 'is that I am excited about what I see.' Well, you can sense the excitement in a painting like this one, with its singing, zinging colours – 
And, talking of colour, how about this one, titled 'Eclipse', which reminds me of the work of our own Robert Dukes...
Redmond is refreshingly honest about the painter's life: 'Painting for me is really just a legal excuse to sit down and look at something for hours on end. What other profession allows you to go out, find something really cool, and stare at it as long as you want?' Well, quite. And that 'something really cool' might include, as here, washing hanging out to dry on a clothesline. This one is called 'Pink Pants' – 

And here, finally, is one of Redmond's haunting interiors – 

This, it seems to me, is a fine painter. I'll be looking out for his work from now on...

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