It is perhaps the time now at the autumn of 2013 that we should raise the question of the importance of revisiting the transcendence of figurative painting nowadays for our society. The reason why we should direct our attention to this matter lies in the fact that figurative art is scarcely receiving any consideration at our times. Art, although eternal and timeless, as it may seem in its nature, seems to be subjected to the rules of the moment. There is no doubt that art, in its infinity, surrenders to the codes of the aesthetics of the time. What is accepted then, it depends upon the criteria established on external forces to the process of art and the act of creativity. But this is not the case of the young painter Johnny Morant and the pieces of art that compound the collection ‘Going places’. A set of paintings based on the author’s experiences of life, of travelling and living in other cultures is now displayed at Tryon Roundtree Gallery at St. James’s.
The way in which he represents the landscapes he has seen is, in many ways, more than a mere reproduction of nature: what Aristotle called mimesis.
If artistic objectification of nature finds its deepest roots in observation and thought, then the painter’s desire of reaching certain degree of immortality becomes, thus, achieved. Not immortality for himself but immortality for the remembrance of the specific event that unleashed the moment of inspiration, which carries in itself the potential of immortality. This seems a rather usual act that artists and painters experience in their activity. But Johnny Morant brings this act to the extreme at the time he decides to immortalise what seems already immortal: nature. Nature, as portrait in these paintings, is inhabited by the hands of men, bringing the so-called natural and civilisation at the very heart of its conflict: power. ‘Going places’ shows the journey of life itself, the journey of creation. At a first glance, it may seem a rather heterogeneous collection of painting. But in fact, if we observe the paintings with a critical eye, we can see that there is a magnificent conceptual thread that guides the universe of this collection and makes of this painter one of the most impressive hands of contemporary painting: the dialectics between nature and culture materialised in the sublime capacity of man to create.
Men and women in cities, outside, walking on the streets, on squares, people passing by, diluted in the white reflex of the sun on the roads. People with no face or clear physiognomy- this is not the painter’s aim to reach the soul of the human being. His purpose it is a more conceptual one: to show how human beings are thrown into life against themselves. This is clearly seen on a range of pieces of work on still life. The painter’s repeated progression of capturing still life seems to correspond to the need of immortalising objects, which naturally are ephemeral.
As a whole, whether it is landscapes or still life, Johnny Morant provides a particular vision on man and his way of inhabiting the world. He revisits, with masterly ability, the technique of the classic chiaro-oscuro from a contemporary angle, blurring the boundaries between dark and light, ephemeral and eternal, providing to the art of figurative painting with a fresh new perspective, a perspective in need to be considerated beyond a mere exercise of mimesis.