Jhonatan Pulido is a painter, who has had a studio at ASC Grafton Quarter, Croydon since October 2019. He studied Fine Arts at Universidad Nacional de Colombia and received an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art. He has been pursuing his practice for 15 years. His aim in his work is to find and create paintings that go outside of the conventional concept of art: reflecting on how art’s materiality performs in popular and remote backgrounds and where its value lies in functionality.
Jhonatan was recently interviewed in Elephant Magazine and will be featured in an upcoming group show this summer at No. 20 Arts.
Is there a starting point for your art practice?
Conceptually, my work lays particular emphasis on components of popular Colombian architecture and the logic that it follows and has inherited through history. I reflect on rural communities, their traditions, and their relationship with decorative aesthetics and different socio-cultural problems, such as armed conflict and exclusion. However, at the making time, I never have a plan or a sketch before starting. I always start by making spontaneous marks on the canvas, playing around, and speculating on the surface. I think this is all so that the canvas acquires a certain memory and a certain weight, which will later be relevant for decisions to come.
What artists have been your greatest inspiration?
During my training and career as an artist I have had different references. The first painter I read about who had a profound impact on me was Goya; I think he was the first painter who took seriously the role of the artist as a social witness of an era. After this, I could mention Monet, Willem de Kooning among others. Nowadays one of my most important references is Peter Doig, more than the content of his work, what most catches my attention is the way he builds it, the different pictorial qualities that you find on the surface, from details of raw canvas, passing through very watery areas to heavy parts.
What was the first artwork of note you remember making?
As a child I tried to draw and paint at different times, what children usually try to do; cartoons on the school board or notebooks but I never had good results, I was not very good. When I was 15 years old, I tried to make a copy of a portrait for my high school art class, the difference was that this time on the teacher’s recommendation, I used a charcoal pencil for the first time in my life, and the result surprised me a lot, that day I proclaimed myself an artist.
What piece of music is a constant in your studio?
A 1994 song of the Colombian Vallenato genre called “Solo Por ti” by El Binomio de oro de America, interpreted by Jean Carlos Centeno.
What is that trip that you have always wanted to make?
Is your artwork where you want it to be?
Not yet, but I think he’s on the right track
How do you order your time?
I usually arrive at the studio at ten in the morning or so, I take a look at what I did the day before, I do this for about half an hour before I start painting. I work for two hours, and then I take an hour break for lunch, then I work until seven or so and finally spend over an hour sitting, observing and thinking about what I did during the day. So around half past eight in the night I’m leaving.
What’s your fondest memory from a movie?
One of the last scenes of the Italian movie Life is Beautiful (1997) when the kid Giosuè comes out of his hiding place and sees an armed tank arriving and he shouts: “It’s true”. Referring to what his father had made him believe about the war; that everything was a game and whoever accumulated the most points and reached the end, would win a tank.
Tell us about a piece you are currently working on
Right now, I am working on many pieces at the same time, but I can highlight a large size diptych that has accumulated some layers of paint and texts that I have been writing and rewriting as if it was a palimpsest. Let’s say that this piece is a reflection of what’s in all my practice.
What would you perform on a TV talent show?
I would sing, even if I am not good enough.
What sources do you turn to for inspiration when you are creatively stuck?
Photographs of the region where I come from, especially those that show houses and popular decorative elements. The Colombian music that folks used to listen to in the rural sector of my country in the 90s. I also look at my paintings, those where I feel like I was successful. Many times, the answers are given to me by my work.
What pastimes have you been entertaining yourself with in lockdowns?
During the first two lockdowns, I was in Colombia with my family, I used to play basketball, cycle, cook, watch sports on television, walk the dogs, things like that.
Is narrative important in your work?
I am interested in the narrative of the painting itself. Although my work has very clear social and political starting points; when the volume of these stories or events becomes stronger and exceeds the act of painting, I find something suspicious and try to generate a balance where the materiality of the painting comes over it, I am more interested in the “how” than the “what”.
Does place inform your work?
Yes, it does, and I think it is one of the most important aspects of my work today. All of my influences and starting points come from a specific place. I believe that the elements for the pictorial research are not only found in museums or art galleries. Those are often in the most remote places or the humblest actions of the communities.
Do you like mistakes?
I don’t like mistakes, but I admit they are a crucial part of my process. Generally, great success comes from correcting a big mistake.