The illustrations of Oliver Jones are rendered using pastel which is an important component of the works, as in describing the surface of flesh
an article written by Carmen Line Hust
ARTICULATE #27 | APRIL 2021
The drawings of the British artist Oliver Jones (b. 1985) aim to dispel a contrived imagery of flesh that is flaunted to us through media, social media and industry, and endeavors to re-advertise a more truthful version of it, which is not limited to the mainstream media version of it. His work question society’s requirement for social inclusion and perfectionism, by observing the regimes and procedures widely used in the pursuit of these.
In these exact social observations, Jones finds his creative drive. He argues that the need to observe might be inherent in all artists, while he finds social behaviors and the ways in which they are manipulated intriguing. He states that now more than ever the pursuit for social acceptability seems frantic certainly driven by one of the most significant societal drivers in history – social media, which is one of the key influencers informing his ideas.
The drawings of Oliver Jones are rendered using pastel, which is an important component of the works, by the way of further describing the surface of flesh. This is largely due to the similarities it has to flesh not only physically, because of its fragile, delicate nature, but also through its application, which is directly comparable to the way we would touch and handle our own skin, especially when applying products.
His work is absolutely pre-determined. Jones works closely with the photographic image and the toughest part of the work is the recreation of the mental image he’s conjured, physically, in order to take the exacting resource images to work from. The work does not stray very far at all from the photo which he initially created, which is why he knows largely whether a piece of work will work or not, when transferred to paper with pastel. The toughest part of the work is also one of the most exciting parts of the processes to Jones – to be able to pluck the image out of his head and make it reality.
The works of Jones are rarely constrained by the ‘who’ he is, and is not really trying to describe the actual individual, but more superficially the surface and the exterior. A reoccurring theme in the work is commenting on advertising/industry and the representation of flesh in the media and social media. According to Jones, very little of that sort of imagery is centered upon representing the sitter or model as an individual and because he plays upon similar imagery, the images don’t rely upon the perfect model. Instead, Jones tries to re-advertise a more everyday version, one that we encounter so often that we become unreceptive to it, much like the visions of perfection flaunted to us through media and industry and as a consequence fueling the pursuit of a false reality.
That being said, the subjects that Jones do use have to possess a certain level of intrigue for him, as it might be a texture, a coloration or a structure that he believes to be visually impactful. It is not uncommon for Jones to use models that he knows, since he can visualize them in the work and have already mentally used them as reference when concocting the idea – however it is not unlike him to stop someone in the street and ask them to be part of a piece of work.
Oliver Jones is very taken by the technical skills of the artists of old times, the Swiss painter Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-1789) for example, a fellow pastel painter. Jones can identify aspects of Liotard’s work, where Jones’ own method of using the medium would throw up certain issues and he can only marvel at how Liotard might have overcome them.
However, Jones takes inspiration from so many creatives, not always correlating to his own work, but serving as an instigator for wanting to get into the studio and do something. He loves really gestural, painterly works, such as the British visual artist Flora Yukhnovih (b. 1990), the British contemporary artist Jenny Saville (b.1970), the later work of American artist Chuck Close (b. 1940) and the British painter Peter Doig (b. 1959), where you can see the presence of the artist. Jones is also inspired by the ideas and work ethics of the British sculpture artist Kate MccGwire (b. 1964), the visual art of British Sarah Maple (b. 1985), the portraits of British Andrew Tift (b. 1968), the British, figurative artist Phillip Harris (b. 1965), the works of British Ben Sadler (b. 1977) and the contemporary Australian artist CJ Hendry (b. 1988).
This article about Oliver Jones takes part of the 27th magazine, ARTICULATE #27. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below.