We recently caught up with Jonni Cheatwood as he wrapped up his residency in Berlin to chat Figurativism, Liechtenstein, and local delicacies!
AC: Hey Jonni! You've recently wrapped up a residency in Berlin. How has Berlin, and as an extension, changes to geographical locations affected your work?
JC: Hey! Yeah, Berlin was great. It’s a wild city creatively because there’s so much going on. You can hardly see a wall in Kreuzberg or Friedrichshain that hasn’t been touched with some type of art so it was pretty easy to transition mentally in making work in a new space. It kind of had this Los Angeles grittiness to it and it was kinda comforting to me. I just tried my best to focus on making the same type of work that I would be making in Los Angeles in someone else’s studio.
We're seeing an incorporation of figurative elements such as heads and busts in your latest works. How has that come about? Was it a conscious evolution of your practise or happened organically?
I think it's a little of both. I was in between shows this year and I wanted to get in the studio and start making work for myself again, just to experiment. I recognized that there are a lot of abstract faces and characters in my work already so I wanted to explore making more of an obvious abstract portrait. I started using George Condo as a reference, because I love his textures and color choices, but then I revisited this red painting he did with two heads and I think I light bulb went off in my head. I remembered that Basquiat would reference other paintings in his work, so I was just like okay I’m going to try this Condo out, but in my style of painting. I showed my gallerist in Beirut the new work and she two days later she told me that she loved it and had a buyer for it. I want to see if it’s sustainable for me to keep making those, but for now I’m excited to explore that work
You’ve cited the Peanuts comic as being a major inspiration in the past. Can you explain your recent inclusion of Roy Lichtenstein images and motifs?
I’m big on Peanuts haha. Because my work is very textile based I wanted to find material in Berlin, so I scoured the Turkish markets looking for anything that I thought would be fun to sew into my work. At the end of last year I started working with photographs and that kind of imagery as the blueprint of the work; but because I’m in Berlin and it would be hard to find a printer to print out images on canvas for me - I just decided to use some textiles that already had imagery, like the Lichtenstein fabric that I found at the Turkish market. My work is becoming more and more colorful so I guess it’s fitting that I would use some Lichtenstein.
When you visited Brisbane in March last year, you tried Vegemite for the first time (and enjoyed it). Are there any new cultural dishes you’ve tried in Berlin, or Europe?
Haha! I loved Vegemite. I pretty much bought a lifetime supply of it at the airport. My wife thinks it’s crazy that I love it so much. I’m a savory guy, so what? I’ll try all the local cuisines. Berlin was a lot of currywurst, fries and beer, which was delicious. We also went to Paris, the U.K. and Italy. I don’t eat a lot of Italian food here in the States. It’s just too heavy for me, but in Italy the food was so simple and amazing.
Lastly, what’s next for you?
I am showing at the Expo Chicago art fair with Beers London then doing a solo show in London in the spring of 2020 and then I’ll have my LA debut with Over the Influence in the fall of 2020. I’m excited about these!
'Unlearn, Relearn..Repeat' is currently on show until early August. See more of the exhibition HERE.