Sometimes you find an artist whose work stays with you, lingers at the back of your mind, and you hope that one day you just might be able to afford a piece! John Monks’ paintings have this effect; the scale and his use of colour, rich oil paint lathered across the canvas in volumes creating a wealth of textural painterly effects, evokes nostalgia and a sense of reverence… His paintings are truly mesmerising.
I’ve been lucky enough to exhibit his work twice so far with solo shows in both my London spaces, alongside the team at his gallery, Long & Ryle http://www.longandryle.com/artists/john-monks. In conversation with him, I once mentioned his work seems to reflect the “splendour of decay”. He explained it’s not so much about decay, but that the paintings contain history, he’s attempting to create an environment as a presentation of time passing by.
Monks’ subject matter favours abandoned buildings with luxurious interiors and an aura of majesty left neglected, often featuring antique furniture, chandeliers, piles of books, unmade beds or parquet flooring. His source of light, beaming in from doors, windows or lamps, offers a glimpse into the hidden depths of these grand dwellings. In a recent piece, Mirror Image, an elegant chandelier is repeated in triptych captured by mirrors on either side of an abandoned ballroom. With a few choice strokes, Monks has created the imaginings of an orange chair partitioning the dark wood floor and reflecting back twice via the mirrors.
Often in his work a void is present, established by clever use of endless hallways, doorways within doorways, or a road leading ever-onwards into a dark landscape. Monks is a master of sharp linearity, illumination and shadow, and his use of contrast is exceptional. To achieve this he explains, “you have to go darker in order for the light to really shine.”
I am more than a little bit in love with his work.