By Katie Webb Arts & Entertainment Editor
Like a dance without the restraints of defined choreography, Dan Jones moves in step with his paintings. A neo-expressionist-inspired minimalist artist, Jones’ body of work is composed of sketches and paintings.
His collection titled “Noises,” hanging in the FORM gallery from Feb 10 – 12, ranges from detailed Sharpie sketches of strange comical characters to massive paintings. Though he began with the illustrations, his artistic interest has led him to create far more contemplative, stripped-down paintings he only began working on in college. Akin to Pablo Picaso’s progression from classical portraits to his later work, Jones is striving to make his paintings stark abstractions.
“I react to the canvas, working with a larger canvas you treat it as if the space were more special,” said Jones.
His brush strokes are chaotic. But his work is not overtly emotional.
“There are certain points where I’ll paint for an hour and realize I’m getting too sucked into it,” said Jones.
Avoiding representational work, the painter distances himself, not letting one motivation or feeling out into the piece but allowing it to “build itself.”
A graceful give-and-take, Jones jots down a few words of random text only to find that is not what the painting needed. The dance continues, Jones surrendering the lead to the piece before him, unaware of where it will take him.
“I hardly know what I’m doing. I don’t know if I have the authority to talk about my own paintings so I’m just happy if people can grasp something, I don’t care what is happening,” said Jones.
While the process may be undefined, the technical skill and intriguing inspiration behind the work are anything but.
The pieces are cleverly constructed, a nod to the artist’s process: part self-described amateur-poet, he layers pencil sketches subtly in the work, and part art-historian self aware of the need to communicate with artists of the past and present, he thinks before he creates the expressions.
The popular opinion that “anyone could do that” could strike someone seeing Jones’ work for the first time. Yet, they’d be sorely mistaken.
It’s easy to miss the hours of thoughtful deliberation that go into, say, a so-called simple spray paint mark, another complex step in the dance between the artist and his art.
“Miasma,” said Jones, gesturing to a word scrolled almost illegibly at the top of one of his works, none of which are named. “It’s like having air pockets in your lungs.” An air that is poisonous or putrid.
The small allowance for representational material, accompanied by a rough sketch of a diaphragm, is due to Haitian-American graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiats influence.
“[Basquait] refers to black history depicting black kings and crowns (in his work),” said Jones.
A mess of bold color, random demonic looking sketches and basic figures, like cave drawings amass Basquaits art. Like a modern Picaso, Basquiat too strips down his work, using street-style graffiti to communicate.
To create his communications, Jones is aided by another outside influence. No dance is complete without accompanying music. The soundtrack to his work is white noise, fitting for the title of his gallery.
“The music I listen to when I paint is blast beats, typically this band Lightening Bolt, I like to have harsh noises and ambient sounds and all sorts of noises [playing],” said Jones.
The raucous noise lingers distinctly in his work. The paintings somehow emit their own sense of disquiet, some louder than others.
In fact, the smaller the painting, the fiercer the outcry. A particular crimson-dominated canvas (featured to the left in the first photo above) creates its own clash of sensory overload, while much larger pieces, like a murky blue-grey piece, seem to softly create discord, with no need to scream to be seen. The blue-grey piece could hang fittingly on the wall of a therapist’s office, gazing down at the patient, mirroring the gentle hum of a troubled mind while still presenting a calm front.
Thought Jones felt no single emotion creating the collection, a myriad of sounds and dysfunctional feelings are caused upon viewing them. It is the kind of disturbing discord one gets after watching a surreal silent film: eerie, yet oddly cathartic.
The dance ends switching partners. Jones bows out, and the work entices the observer into a jarring rollick. But the movements, however unnatural, are a well-deserved stretch for the traditionalist mind.