Jonas Wood finds beauty in the mundane, as crowded spaces spill over with junk, shelves are packed with potted plants and clashing prints compete for our attention. All this bristling energy is surrounded by soft grey light, allowing steely silence to descend upon his scenes, a nod, perhaps towards our need for stillness amidst the frenetic pace of modern life. GREY WHISPER linen echoes the tranquillity of Wood’s muted grey tone, speaking of half-lit interiors and daylight muffled by a blanket of cloud.
Wood grew up in Boston surrounded by a field of artistic influences; in his grandfather’s house hung the art of Francis Bacon, Alexander Calder and Helen Frankenthaler, while his architect father and drama teacher mother embarked on endless creative endeavours in the family home, making the choice to enter the arts as an adult seem natural. He was particularly influenced by the props his mother made for school plays, remembering, “It was a really big deal in retrospect that I was around sets and plays and props. Because my paintings are like that, in a way. They are not real. They have a theatrical vibe.”
Wood studied art and psychology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, followed by an MFA in Painting and Drawing at the University of Washington in Seattle. Influences from Cubism and Pop emerged, as did the flattened languages of Lucien Freud, David Hockney and Alex Katz, on which Wood wrote, “All three of them are my superheroes.” After moving to Los Angeles in 2003 with his wife, the ceramicist Shio Kusaka, Wood’s career began as a studio assistant for artists Matt Johnson and Laura Owens, before his first solo show in 2006 sold out and he realised he could do it alone.
Wood has remained in LA since, sharing a home studio with his wife and earning a name for collapsing together personal, real-life experiences with wider cultural references. In Shio’s Studio on Palms, 2015, his wife’s studio is broken into fragmented, architectural shards suggesting the transitional buzz of a creative space, but broad planes of soft grey bring ordered calm to the scene, or what Wood has called “space to think.” Painted two years later, Wood creates an unlikely portrayal of Vegas, 2017, reimagining the electrified city as a sea of close grey and black industrial tones. His scene is coloured only by small strands and patches of blue while a blanket of thick clouds overhead diffuse the light. Writer Ingrid Westlake reflects, “How can Jonas Wood make Las Vegas so recognisable and yet so devoid of the contrasts we readily associate with Vegas?”
In a study of his wife’s new workspace, Shio’s Studio on Blackwelder, 2017, a dimly lit interior space is filled with packing boxes and grey bricked walls. Artworks are hidden away, forcing us to focus on the ordinary, abstract beauty of brickwork grids, strips of tape, piles of paper and patterned flooring, everyday objects made to resemble the muted tones and flattened forms of Cubism. The dimmed light and pared back colours lend an air of melancholic unease to this transitional scene, as the old is packed up to make way for the new. Helen’s Room, 2017 portrays the bedroom of Wood’s daughter Helen as daylight fades into twilight, transforming white walls and messed up bedding into mysterious greys and once vivid colours into unsettling, muted tones. Slanted angles on the walls add to this disquieting atmosphere, while dark trees beyond seem to hold secrets in their midst. Snowscape with Barn, 2017 continues with this pared back, restricted colour palette which is almost all pale grey, as subdued daylight weaves across shadowy snow and through shimmering, shifting tree patterns. Human presence is only hinted at by the tiny red shovel, lending a voyeuristic quality to this isolated, silent scene.