Jonathan Nichols uses figure motifs and painterly methods in his works in Singapore. The paintings unfold from one to the next and in this way each work is interlinked with the others. He is interested in the idea that paintings are interconnected across time and cultures.
When he was living in Singapore, he discovered Chinese paper at Bras Basah which led him on artistic journey where he proposed proposed painting as a poetic field and act of revivification. The idea is that paintings are more like people than the inanimate objects they are usually assumed to be. He is interested in how this works and what we expect paintings to do in the world.
In regards to revivification, he thinks of this in terms of the four works on linen in the exhibition, including Single Cross. Each of these paintings began with a pre-existing figure, either from a historical photograph or a statue or religious idol. You might say he is reviving what could be thought of as dormant.
While in Singapore, Nichols also often visited the galleries at National Gallery dedicated to the work of Wu Guangzhong. Wu’s work was a revelation to him. It was possible to trace his processes very closely from the earlier works to the later. He was especially interested in his western-style oil painting and he could see these were painted differently from the works on paper. Tracing backwards and forwards across these gave him a kind of way into Wu’s work.
“I felt I could adapt my own practice similarly but reverse the approach by applying my own understanding of painting using the Chinese paper that I was able to source from Guan Yun Zhai’s paper supplies at Bras Basah. There are clearly differences in painterly knowledge between Chinese paper traditions and western oil painting but there are equivalences between them too. In the western tradition the psychic process itself is the central object of painting but I imagine it’s also a reasonable basis to understand Wu’s work. In my mind the heightened expectations of one tradition can be turned to accentuate what is possibly dormant in the other. In the studio I’m continuing to use the Chinese paper inspired by the character and painterly methods of Wu Guanzhong.”