Jonathan Hall – Listening In: Open Ended Stories of Exotic Journeys

Listening In is a new solo show by the figurative painter Jonathan Hall. His skilful paintings, which remind me of a contemporary version of Dame Laura Knight, make reference to the twenty years of travelling that he has undertaken since he left the Slade School of Art, and in particular to the four years he spent sailing in the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, in a small boat with his young family. Hall blends stories of what happened in his journeys together with notions of what might have happened in scenes that have been reconstructed in a sequence of memory and retrieval.

In the Painting (illustrated top), the two figures of ‘Sewing for the Sailors’ are patiently labouring together, perhaps as part of a refit of an unseen ship; on their voyages Hall’s partner would sew material onboard their boat that helped to maintain the fabric of their vessel. Simultaneously the painting refers to the women islanders of the South Pacific who Hall observed communally sewing ornamental quilts that would mark the important celebration days of a Polynesian life, such as birth, marriage, death.

Hall uses homemade folk painting to tell open ended stories of journeys that contain hints of unknown dramas, tensions or events that curl around the edges of the paintings. Half remembered episodes are taken and blended into domestic scenes that are at once voyeuristic and intrusive, objective and intimate.

‘Easy in, easy out’ takes the ubiquitous green filing cabinet still to be found in the offices of many worldwide government departments (and featured in Edward Hopper’s ‘Office at night’) and relocates it to the ‘bach’ or holiday home of New Zealand, a place of idealised leisure and plenty. The scene is now set, but how we got here, or what happens next, is left unresolved.

The activity of travelling and living in various different countries around the world with his young family have naturally impacted on Hall’s work, but rather than return with paintings of the exotic he has deliberately let domesticity take hold of his compositions, constructed from imagination.

Since leaving the Slade School of Art, Jonathan Hall has lived in various countries around the world including Uruguay, the Cook Islands, Australia and New Zealand, and has travelled in over 50 countries with his wife and two daughters. In 2003 the family bought a catamaran and spent 4 years sailing across the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. Previous to his time within the art world Hall had a career in the City of London as a Lloyd’s broker. This is Jonathan Hall’s first exhibition since he left art school 20 years ago. He now lives and works in Wiltshire.

Jonathan Hall ‘Listening In’ 13th to 20th November Stephen Ongpin Fine Art 6 Mason’s Yard, Duke Street, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6BU

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