Visually Potent, Symbolically Rich
Through his art, Jonathan Ouisse intends to awaken and disturb his viewers by vehicle of satirical portraits of today’s society. Painter, illustrator and graphic designer, his style belongs to the New Contemporary Art movement, at the crossroads of street-art and realism.
K. Hi, Jonathan Ouisse, thank you for chatting with us today. To begin, tell us about how it all got started.
I always knew that I wanted to become a painter or a draftsman. However, the triggering element was probably discovering the paintings of the Italian Renaissance masters. I must have been 8 or 9 years old, in the churches, basilicas, museums of Florence, Rome and Venice. My mother organized these trips every summer, during which we went (until exhaustion) to discover these artistic treasures that are still a great source of inspiration for my work.
I then wanted to learn to use oil paints and watercolor. I tried to reproduce these masterpieces. I discovered graffiti while studying Applied Arts, but I wasn’t any good at it and didn’t end up finishing. To my great dismay, I turned to a graphic design school. I then spent the next four years learning master Photoshop, which is used today in the composition of my paintings. Not once did I touch a canvas in those four years.
In 2014, I had my first solo exhibition in a gallery in Tours. Based on the success of the event, I decided to pursue this path. I made painting my profession in 2018. A 6-month exhibition at the Spacejunk Art Center in Grenoble really got my foot in the door. Since then, I regularly collaborate with galleries in Europe and the United States, as well as with KAZoART of course!
K. Your style belongs to the New Contemporary Art movement. What does this movement cover and how does your work fit the mould?
Emerging on the West Coast of the United States in the 1990s, New Contemporary Art, much like its 20th century counterparts, Surrealism, Dada or Fauvism, has finally materialized in search of new forms, content and expressions that cite, rather than disavow, the individual and the social.
Acrylic Painting (200 x 70 cm)
The early incarnations of the movement advocated for figuration, surrealism, representation, pop culture and subculture, thus directly confronting the art paradigm of a so-called haute culture.
In response to the rabid conceptual turn then being championed on the East Coast, the movement gradually created its own platforms, publications and spaces for the dissemination of its images and ideas.
It now finds itself in full expansion in all spheres of today’s art market. My painting fits into all these criteria without even really thinking about it, it is the curator Jérôme Catz of Spacejunk (Grenoble Street Art Fest) who automatically registered me in this movement.
K. What other artistic trends and artists have inspired and still inspire you?
I would say that of the Figuration Narrative with Fromanger, Monory, Klassen, Télémaque, Arroyo…. An irreverent trend that appeared in the early 1960s in France, in opposition to abstraction and the contemporary movements of New Realism and Pop Art, with which it is nevertheless associated.
I remember having taken a monumental slap at the retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in 2008. I was stunned by Le Grand Méchoui ou douze ans d’histoire de France (1972). I knew then that art had the capacity to awaken our consciences.
K. How does a work session unfold? Do you first think about your subjects separately before putting them together? Do you make sketches?
I don’t really have a modus-operandi. Ideas can come from a walk with my daughters in the forest, at the zoo, while shopping, or while witnessing an absurd situation.
I make a quick note of them and then come back to them. I think about it more in depth, I take pictures as much as possible. You don’t easily come across a burning car! I do research online and then I start composing on Photoshop with the photographic resources I have on hand.
Then I remove, add, and rework the lights until I get an image that I find relevant. I can sometimes spend days finding the right composition which will gather the synthesis of all my reflections. I don’t forbid myself from anything and I don’t want to lock myself in a style or a typical series. I like my paintings to be totally different.
Magic Mermaid – SOLD
Mixed Media (140 x 140 cm)
The Wobbly Balance
Acrylic Painting (95 x 140 cm)
The King’s Speech
Mixed Media (240 x 200 cm)
Homo Sapiens – SOLD
Acrylic Painting (30 x 30 cm)
K. What was the most consuming work to complete in terms of time-spent and symbolic significance?
One of the last ones, Sanctuary, was complex to realize. I spent a lot of time on it not only due to its large format but it’s very detailed and technically demanding. Especially in the representation of my children. It was imperative that I do justice to their inner and outer beauty, their sincere and deep expressions, the movement and the light.
Acrylic Painting (210 x 210 cm)
There is also complexity in the symbolism of this work: the trinity in the composition, the iconographic reinterpretation of the Pieta, although the painting has nothing to do with the Christian religion, on the contrary. Its representation has something powerful, almost metaphysical, which speaks to us all. It is a profoundly eco-feminist work.
K. Your works are regularly produced in large formats. Is there a relationship between the issue addressed, its complexity, and the size of the painting?
Extraordinary dimensions always have a much greater impact than small formats. They allow an almost total immersion in the painting and its subject. The viewer never really comes out unscathed. It is likely that the discovery of the monumental paintings of the Italian Masters has influenced my desire to go large.
Acrylic Painting (250 x 175 cm)
I don’t think it has anything to do with the complexity of the issue, anything can be painted, no matter the size of the medium. However, I have recently been moving to smaller paintings. It is also necessary to meet the demand of collectors. And let’s face it… the average person doesn’t own a house with ceilings that are five meters high!
K. Political news and ecology are two recurrent themes in your work. When you approach them through the prism of satire that’s a bit surrealist, is this your way to de-dramatizing the situation?
Mixed Media (300 x 180 cm)
Satire is an extremely powerful and effective means of communication when it comes to denouncing or highlighting a dramatic situation. It allows me to approach the subject(s) in the second degree without ever falling, I hope, in the facility while allowing me the accumulation of ideas, reflections by giving keys to the spectators to decode the image without that being obvious.
I like to play with multiple interpretations, to hide clues in the canvas, so that every viewer’s imagination can wander.
K. What would be the main message to take away from your work?
The current stakes are such that as a painter, I feel obliged to be in a certain commitment towards my painting. Man has, in my opinion, lost his way since he became aware of his state, namely a being endowed with reason. A paradoxical qualification since when we analyze his evolution in front of the world and the appropriation that he makes of it, we must ask ourselves, is he really that reasonable?
I Once Dreamt I Was a Dove
Digital Print (40 x 50 cm)
We have forgotten that we belong to a whole and that harmony is to be found in nature and not in a completely uncontrolled exacerbated materialism.
K. What are your plans for the current year and for 2022?
I am in the process of making three original paintings for ST’ART Strasbourg as well as unique embellished prints for the Affordable Art Fair in London.
At the end of November, I will start thinking about new compositions for my second solo show at Maze Gallery in London. I am also negotiating with new American and Chinese galleries for future collaborations.
Jonathan Ouisse’s Gallery
Acrylic Painting (100 x 80 cm)
Acrylic Painting (140 x 95 cm)
Birdy Nam Nam
Acrylic Painting (90 x 70 cm)