Jon Rowland has drawn on a number of locations that have influenced his ideas on abstraction. These have all played a part in his ‘artistic journey’, and include Provence, Venice, Cuba, the Scottish Coast and landscapes around Oxford. Most pictures are painted ‘en plein air’. Through this series of themes he explores aspects of space, light, and colour. In some themes he uses concepts of detail to examine and manipulate emerging abstraction. In others, he makes reflects the nature and form of the land. In the same way, his nudes can be seen as landscapes, their shapes reminiscent of land folds, and their sensuality reflecting the softness of the hills. Whilst he draws on influences from west coast America, and the new English landscape scene, he is grounded in what he sees and abstracts the scenes to create his art. Jon says,
“Painting is a journey. The picture takes on life of its own, sometimes going with your flow, sometimes challenging you. Chance and opportunity are the travelling companions; but the art is to know when the journey is complete.”
The richness and colour of the landscape can be seen in the paintings of the countryside around Uzes. Villages, vineyards and some of the events and fetes provide the material for much of his work. Examples include:
A series of paintings that reflect the movement and passion of the Fetes des Taureaux, during which bulls are driven through local villages and let loose to rampage through the streets. Here the coming together of the black bulls, the white horses of the Carmargues, the local Gitanes in their white shirts and black trousers provides the touchstone for this theme.
Le Paysage d’Uzes celebrates a love affair with the south of France and the area around Uzes, an ancient town, famed for its buildings and most wonderful market. Jon gets his inspiration from the simple agricultural patterns of vineyards, fields of sunflowers.
In particular there is a series of paintings that focus on fields that surround his favourite village. Les Tournesols celebrates the fields packed with sunflowers that follow the path of the sun, sometimes presenting their side views, sometimes face on.
Les Vignobles also seeks to explore the structures that support the growing vines at various times of the year, from the bareness of the spring to the abundance of the summer harvests.
The city has been a continual inspiration and the subject of a number of paintings that have made up recent exhibitions. Most artists tackle the big scenes, the Rialto, San Marcos or the Grand Canal. Jon focuses on those areas that are off the beaten track where the potential to concentrate on the fragility of the stonework or the colour and the still, opaque nature of the water in a canal provide the inspiration for these paintings. The small calles and the mooring areas for the gondolas, and the architectural details, are all depicted, stripped down to their essential elements which are manipulated in terms of colour, and form. When the big subjects are addressed such as San Marco’s facade, it is the overarching feeling of the scene and the lack of detail that are expressed.
Portraying the Essence
This theme has emerged as some of the paintings and sketches themselves have been deconstructed and abstracted. This provides the opportunity to play with colour and shape, and to create paintings of detail and depth. Scenes are painted over and over. Each picture dissects the landscape to expose its essence and abstracts and ‘decorates’ the result of this analysis. This has been the case when Jon has painted a favourite area in Scotland where the landscape is both sensual and evocative. The theme of Details is built up from the landscape around the River Fleet valley in Scotland.
Places and Spaces
The countryside around Jon's home offers continual opportunities to explore the more contained environment of Oxfordshire, whether in places such as Foxcombe Woods, where the ponds and paths are carved out of the trees or the large fields that surround small villages and homesteads. His views of the hills of Devon, the Pennines and Scotland reflect the changes in weather and the different seasons.
Sensuality can be applied to the gentle slopes of landscape as well as the human body. Jon's approach to nudes, both male and female is to reflect the tactile features of the body. "You want to reach out and touch the painting and stroke the subject," said someone at Jon's last exhibition at Wolfson College. So it is with the internal domestic environment of the still life. The tactile translucence of the curtains disturbed by a gentle breeze add to the mystery of the scene.
Journeys to south west Scotland have also provided an environment that continually changes, hour by hour with the weather and the tides. Hot sands in high summer, winter rains at high tide, and peaty streams as the snows melt form part of a long-lasting theme that Jon has explored for many years. Painting at the edge of the water requires the ability to capture the essence of the moment, before it’s lost; though the next moment, the next tide can be equally inspirational. Jon continually returns to the Fleet Estuary to paint the coves, bays, and mud flats, again searching for the underlying colours and sense of space.
Haven returns to the waters edge and the nature of beached boats resting on the sand or mud of the estuary.
Sailing to Troy evokes the pleasure of sailing and sketching along the coast of Turkey. Not all the paintings are about the small coastal villages; rather they are about the experience of the wind, the sails and distance.
Clovelly Beach celebrates the meshing of the urban and natural environments of a Sydney lifestyle.
Colour is central to Jon's paintings. Cuba, where he worked with a Cuban artist, and Provence with its Mediterranean sunshine have allowed him to explore the complemenatarity, juxtaposition, hue and depth of colour. This has influenced his other themes. A recent visit to Kerala has reinforced his ideas on colour and vibrancy. The bright pinks, yellows and turquoise of the buildings and the richness of the clothing have been important in the gradual changing of his palette