Jon Bird is Professor of Art and Critical Theory at Middlesex University and is a writer on, and curator of contemporary art, and an artist.
Returning to art practice after a long absence,I obtained a Diploma in Drawing from the Princes Drawing School in 2006/7 and have since combined painting with teaching and curating. I have written, contributed to and edited books, catalogues and articles on contemporary art and visual culture, and most recently curated the Leon Golub Retrospective for the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid. However, it is now the (difficult) practice of painting that most occupies my thoughts and time. Working between figuration and abstraction, the complexities of our perceptions and interpretations of light reflected on or through surfaces, particularly water, have been a recurrent motif over several years, sometimes leaning towards the abstract and formal, at others focusing upon the qualities of depth, movement and pattern. Always, there is the search to uncover the unfamiliar within everyday experience, to make something – an image – that holds the eye and engages the mind.
A series of small gouache paintings of seas were an attempt to give scale to a highly condensed image – a detail (snapshot) which implies the whole. Then the ‘Refraction’ paintings derive from observing the effects of rippled glass distorting light and substance, a visual experience akin to the play of pattern on water. At times this process has led to formal abstraction where the use of stencils has been the device to build the pictorial surface in layers – applying and erasing the image so that the final result carries the trace of its own history.
Currently, I am concerned with types of landscape – with the ‘sense of place’ that lingers from our experience of the natural and the urban environment, of a mountain, forest, building – an impression that is specific, but filled with mystery and ambiguity.