This event marked the ten year anniversary since local Hastings artist Jonny Cole died January 2007, in Cambodia. A gathering to remember and celebrate Jon's life, his work as a painter and the inspiration that has become his legacy to many people through his paintings and of course quite simply for the person he was.
In 1994 Jon wrote
'Painting has become my way in life. I have concentrated on this more than anything else'
Jonathan Cole's paintings are about belief. He believed in painting.
These paintings make little attempt to inspire with subliminal imagery but are concerned with language, the surface language of paint. He presents us with an image of Mohammed Ali or a tree or an image inspired from the Bible or a seemingly process driven abstraction, however in effect we are presented with a blank canvas, a space in or on which to act - to create. Here is a tree, here is a relic of Christianity that has shaped our culture ... here is nothing, nothing more than a painting. The paintings are flat and upfront, in your face with an emphasis on surface, however, the obsessive nature of the imagery and of the marks, coupled with the very pared down-ness of the paintings, intrigues, creating vast spaces that you can get lost in. Contradiction is very much a part of all the paintings, they take you somewhere and then just when you think you understand, they challenge this understanding. As Jonathan wrote “Painting for me is somewhere between a bird and a fly”. When confronted by imagery we have a readymade package of answers to avoid dealing with them, however the honesty of these paintings, their lack of irony and cynicism, compels us to question ... he felt the paintings of religious subjects (that reappear throughout his work) to be an attempt to recover the humility of belief - to acknowledge the privacy of faith.
Jonathan believed passionately in painting and this is the overriding feeling one gets when confronted by this modest selection of his paintings.
Surely now is the time for a much more comprehensive look at the large body of work he created.
Ron Skibbard 2017
Ron Skibbard wrote a review of Jonathan Cole’s exhibition ‘The Baptist and the Sea’ at the Riviera Gallery in 1994.