Jonathan Owen’s work involves the systematic transformation of readymade objects and images. He is interested in making by reducing and removing, and in the controlled collapse of existing objects as a method of production and reactivation.
His sculptures begin as relics of another time: 19th century marble statues and busts that he re-carves into disjointed, destabilised versions of their original selves, in an attempt - as he puts it - “to subvert and puncture this familiar rhetoric, and so to reactivate the object through transformation rather than destruction, to make a new proposition."
It offers a way of working that seems especially relevant on the present moment, as the conversation around public monuments is so vigorously re-considered and re-phrased to question ideas of permanence and power – attributes so often associated with the original sculptures that are his favoured raw material.
Owen’s Eraser Drawings - made using found book pages - are also made by a reductive process, a kind of two-dimensional carving of old book pages – working backwards through layers of ink from blacks through greys to white, gradually removing tone from the surface of the page to delete the foreground subject, and subtly re-form the background.
The first of these, made some years ago, concentrated on removing sculptures from their plinths, but his most recent series have focussed on images from the history of cinema, erasing the foreground figures of Hollywood stars, and reshaping them into the inanimate details of the scenes they once inhabited.
In March 2014, Ingleby Gallery hosted a major solo exhibition of Owen's eraser drawings and sculptural work and from June 2014 to January 2015 Owen exhibited work at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art as part of the nationwide series of exhibitions GENERATION. Owen’s solo exhibition at Ingleby Gallery in August 2016 accompanied his public artwork for the nearby Burns Monument, commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival 2016. This marble nymph was aqcuired by the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, and exhibitied by them as part of the Triennial. A solo exhibition of new sculptures and eraser drawings was displayed at Ingleby in Spring, 2021.
Owen was born in Liverpool in 1973 and graduated from Edinburgh College of Art MFA in 2000. He currently lives and works in Edinburgh.