The Baptist and the Sea

An exhibition of paintings by Jonathan Cole

1-26 February 1994, Riviera Gallery Pelham Arcade Hastings

In his statement Jon wrote:

'Painting has become my way in life. I have concentrated on this more than anything else'.

'When I was young I thought life would be acceptable if one had an obsessive vocation. At first, I thought I would be a missionary, and then a farmer accompanying my father on his preaching journeys, I would again be a missionary, briefly a footballer, and later a farmer. So I wrote poems and drew apocalyptic pictures to describe the breadth of ways. Art can be a method; or a methodical way to make parts of the whole from one place. It is clear to me now that in the unknowing of childhood, creativity and individuality are attempts to make tangible the notion that life ahead could be a natural, or a spiritual way'.

'Painting is an idea. It is this idea of belief; that painting might provide a lucid passage through life, and pictures themselves may be a vehicle; to provide room for belief'.

Jon displayed 15 paintings.


The Art critic Ron Skibbard in his forward to the exhibition wrote:

As technology snowballs, our culture has been left eternally chasing, trying to catch up. As a result we have deteriorated into a culture of one-liners, of short hits; immediacy junkies with no time to stop. No time for consideration. No time for stillness. Our traditional values and beliefs have been rejected but without being replaced by anything other than temporary materialism. The majority of artists seeking to come to terms with this do so by looking back, re-examining the residue of our culture, by nomadically wandering through the histories of art and looking to newly opened up (to us) cultures in an attempt to make some sense of this predicament. Jonathan Cole's paintings attempt to confront this crushing lack of belief. These paintings make no attempt to inspire with subliminal imagery but are concerned with language, the surface language of paint. He presents us with an image of the sea or an image inspired from the Bible. In effect we are presented with a blank canvas, a space in or on which to act - to create. Here is the sea, here is a relic of Christianity that has shaped our culture ... here is nothing, nothing more than a painting. The painting of religious relics are an acknowledgement of the currently largely discredited patriarchal system, but they seek to recover the humility of belief - to acknowledge the privacy of faith by making the paintings flat and upfront, literally in your face. The surface nature of the paintings, the way they are painted, defies getting lost in them. However, the obsessive nature of the imagery and of the marks, coupled with the very emptiness of the paintings, intrigues, they cannot be dismissed as a continuation of seascape tradition. When confronted by religious imagery or imagery of the sea we have a ready made package of answers to avoid dealing with them, however the honesty of these paintings, their lack of irony and cynicism, compels us to question.”