Interview Jonathan Farningham
Jonathan Farningham was born in Aberdeen in 1992 and grew up in Harlow, Essex. He studied Fine Art at Birmingham City University and received a 1st class honours degree in 2013. He completed a two year Portrait Painting Diploma at Heatherley’s School of Fine art in 2018.
"My work concerns viewing the world around me and remodelling it with oil paint. I am compelled by the power of portraits and I hope to present not only outward appearances but a true observation of an individual. My way of seeing is to respond to colour and tone and analyse the roles they play in what I observe and I believe in utilising a simple palette, because what we see is a dappled set of nuances based on the simplest of colours. My intention is to always paint without prejudice, as if seeing for the first time."
Where do you get inspiration from and how do you start a painting?
My first instinct is to begin. I find that when I have a blank canvas there is little to react against. I like to place my first marks to determine what the direction of the painting will be. Before I start painting I usually have a subject in mind and I have usually formulated a mental composition so that once I sit down the framework is already laid at least in my mind. However, I do not plan my work extensively in advance, because I enjoy the process of discovering where a painting will go and what I will find along the way.
Which artist inspires you?
I am inspired by many artists and more often than not I am inspired by individual works by artists than necessarily their entire body of work. Some of the work that I am inspired by has similarities with my own, yet a large proportion is entirely different to my own work. Some artists that I look at are Anselm Kiefer, Egon Schiele, Paul Gildea, Kate Hopkins and Edward Hopper. One of the recurring qualities that compel me in other artists’ work is an effort to use paint without too much embellishment, so that it simultaneously creates an image and has the appearance of just paint.
Why is art more important in difficult periods like now?
In times like this people are isolated at home and have been through a great deal of ups and downs, and this allows people to connect more openly with art in my opinion. Everyone has dipped into their creativity in one form or another in the last year and it’s wonderful when it becomes apparent how universal art and creativity is. I think that art is forever important because art can inspire new ideas in others and we must always strive to create, because creativity is motivated by nothing other than the human spirit and that is the most fundamental human activity that we can pursue. This period we have been living has been a time for reflection for many, and art is a wonderful medium which can allow us to reflect and meditate on the past and the future.
How do you define your work?
My work is, in the most basic sense, oil portraits. My subject is almost always the human figure and that is what has inspired me since I was young and I had my first intentions of being an artist. My subject is often myself and that is first and foremost for the practical reason that I always want to
paint the figure so why not?! My painting also reflects that I can be a private person, so my painting often reflects my interior world.
Would you say that you have completed your art training?
I studied a Fine Art degree at Birmingham Art School and then a Portrait Painting Diploma at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, however, I feel that whilst they were instructive periods in which I learned a lot, the journey of learning continues forever. I am constantly pursuing the next goal, trying
to pin down my subject and keep myself halfway between controlling the paint and painting freely and instinctively.