Jason Haam is pleased to present Jonathan Gardner: Horizon, the artist’s first introduction in Asia and solo exhibition with the gallery. The artist’s signature style of flattened pictorial space, hyper-stylized compositions, and depictions of dream-like worlds come together in familiar, yet imaginary scenes that are drawn from Gardner’s own personal experience and collective memory. The presentation will feature five new paintings that highlight Gardner’s virtuosity of composition, form, and color.
The title of the exhibition—Horizon—references the division of space in Gardner’s works, which create ‘a theatrical, stage-like space in which his figures occupy’. Gardner gives all figures, objects, and landscapes the same compositional value by bringing them to the forefront of the visual plane. Though Gardner flattens perspective, the placement of these forms within this space suggests a distant horizon. In Silvestre (2020), a mirror is placed directly behind the plants, reflecting an imaginary room in which the plants sit. This visual cue allows Gardner to suggest an infinite possibility of space with single placements of lines, which hold together a precarious balance of forms.
Acting as both an invitation and separation between reality and Gardner’s worlds, the horizon simultaneously creates visual space and maintains emotional distance. Both The Island (2020) and Panorama (2020) follow the tradition of the reclining nude, but unlike Manet’s Olympia (1863) or Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1534), who directly face, and almost challenge the viewer—the figures have their back turned, independently engaged in their own activity. Their gaze lies away from the viewer, creating distance but also allowing a sense of closeness and vulnerability to their actions, in which Gardner pauses time and movement to give us space to dwell within—in his invented reality.
With his built-up forms and suggested spaces, Gardner presents complex narratives that weave familiar images in art history with scenes from his own personal experience. The original idea for Sunbathers (2019), was inspired by a scene from life on the beach, in which Gardner pairs with the leisurely subject of Picasso’s Bathers (1918) and the classical poses of Titian’s Venuses. The seamless references between art history and everyday situations allow these figures, objects, and landscapes to exist in a space that is familiar, but not quite attainable.
Gardner’s approach to image-making is rooted in his careful construction of visual balance and manipulation of space. Yet simultaneously, the intricacy of his compositional architecture is concealed by a sense of freedom in his leisurely scenes and subjects, ‘who often exist in moments of escape from the dramas and difficulties of life’. Through this complicated process of deliberate and slow revelation, the formal complexity of the works is fully revealed—and herein lies the pleasure in viewing.