Step into the studio
We’re excited to share our new interview with London-based artist Jonathan Lawes. In December, we released two exclusive limited edition prints by Jonathan. Each is a five-colour screen print created in his South London studio. This month, we delve into Jonathan’s art practice to discover what excites him in the studio and how his prints come to life from collages to finished pieces. We discuss his time spent living in Berlin and his most recent visit to Tate Modern to see the Cezanne exhibition.
Can you describe a typical day in the studio?
It usually starts with a good cup of tea and some admin and emails, before changing into my overalls and cracking on with mixing colours and printing. Depending on my workload, this can go on for a varying amount of time. There’s some great spots near the studio for lunch or if I’m mega busy it’s generally just a quick sandwich before getting on with work. Despite starting early, I actually feel I work better in the afternoon and this is when things really begin to come together. A bit more admin, a few more emails, and then it’s about cleaning up and making sure it’s all tidy for the next day.
What do you like most about the screen printing process?
It’s hard to put my finger on one specific element, but all I know is that as soon as I did it for the first time, I knew it was for me. I guess I really love the flat layers of colour that it can produce, but it does take a certain amount of practice to perfect. It’s a lot harder than you think.
Can you tell us more about how you create your print compositions and how you choose your colour palette for each print?
Composition is a key component in my work so it’s worth putting the effort in to perfect it. I like to collage shapes and forms together, working out where best to place them and how to integrate the layering. Then it’s onto colours, for which the inspiration can come from a variety of elements. It might be something I’ve seen last week, or earlier that day. It’s quite natural for me to be constantly searching for colour combinations on the go.
You spent nearly a decade living in Berlin, what was this period in your life like?
When I left Berlin in 2018 I was ready to leave. I wanted to try something new and develop my practice even further and London seemed the place to do that, and evidently it has turned out that way. But I do miss it now. I had a very nice rhythm of life. Living abroad has always been a big part of my life and I wouldn’t discount the idea of doing it again in the future. For now I’m a little more settled with my studio, but I am a bit nomadic and get cravings every once in a while.
Has your creative process changed over the years?
Having my very own print table has made a huge difference to my work – I now have full control over when to do things which helps massively. I think the process itself is pretty much the same as always – developing things as far as I can before starting something new. I like to work at quite a fast pace and that’s something I intend to maintain – making decisions in the moment.
Who are you inspired by?
There are far too many people to choose from, both past and present. It depends how I’m feeling, what I’m into at that time, what I’m working on. I’ve got projects that take me down bright, colourful pathways and others, like the prints I’ve done for you, that are a little more toned back. Inspiration is endless. You’ve certainly got a great bunch here just on Artists & Objects!
Your studio is based at Vanguard studios in South London, there’s a network of creative studios there. Does it feel a supportive community?
There’s been a fair amount of change recently, but I think we’ve got a great group of people up here on the second floor now. There are painters, illustrators, ceramicists, and of course me as the printer. We were all been really busy in the run-up to Christmas, but I’m planning on organising something in the new year that’ll bring us all closer together.
What was the last exhibition you visited?
I went to the Cezanne exhibition at Tate Modern recently. Apart from it being incredibly crowded, it was enjoyable and lovely to see so many of his pieces. I’m mainly into the colours, taking inspiration for future collections. I don’t tend to stay at exhibitions for too long – I go around, absorb what I need and then take this back to the studio.