'MY FORMS ARE NOT RENDERED SPATIALLY. MY PAINTINGS OF TENNIS COURTS WERE ABOUT AN INTEREST IN ABSTRACTION, AND HOW THE COURT BECOMES A GEOMETRIC PUZZLE. THERE ALSO IS TEXT, BECAUSE OF THE ADVERTISING. MY WORK IS UNDER-PAINTED WITH BIG FLAT SHAPES OF COLOR; THAT IS HOW THEY START. THEY ARE GENERATED FROM AN ABUNDANCE OF FLAT PLANES BUILT UP ON TOP OF EACH OTHER.' - JONAS WOOD
The paintings of American artist Jonas Wood not only depict the life inside his Los Angeles studio but also invite the viewer to explore the outside world at large. Taking inspiration from life and memory, Wood has painted ceramics by his wife Shio Kusaka, interiors of their shared studio space, and portraits of friends, family, and fellow artists. However, these highly personal motifs are balanced with images of celebrity athletes or famous sports venues that are instantly recognisable by the general public. Wood identifies himself as a sports enthusiast and he roots for local teams wherever he resides. Born outside of Boston, Wood grew up idolising 12-time-NBA-All-Star Larry Bird and supported the Red Sox; when he later moved to Los Angeles, Wood became a Clippers fan. His other sports interests include boxing, baseball, and televised high buy-in poker tournaments. As a sports fanatic, Wood has produced a wide range of canvases featuring basketball players, sports cards, and tennis courts. In an ongoing series, Wood has expressed his fascinations with Grand Slam tournaments, namely the Australian Open in January, the French Open in May and June, Wimbledon in July, and the US Open in August and September. He indulges in the subject, painting the tennis courts from different angles, with various colour combinations, on medium ranging from paper to canvases of multiple sizes. The current lot is a rare example of Wood’s tennis court series offered on the market painted in such scale.
In French Open I, Wood depicts the premier red-clay-court tennis championship held annually between late May and early June since 1928 at Stade Roland Garros in Paris. Among the four Grand Slam tournaments, the French Open is the only major tennis match played on clay. Compared to grass courts or hard courts, the red clay surface has unique characteristics that result in slower velocity and higher bounce, therefore increasing players’ response time and making it more difficult to deliver an unreturnable shot.
Perhaps inspired by the distinct features of the red clay, instead of using a more realistic burgundy to resemble the dark clay surface, Jonas Wood chooses a bright, lusty red hue that exhibits an uncanny blend of realism and abstraction, creating a quasi-cinematographic ambience. The artist employs flat blocks of vibrant, saturated colours and clean, white lines against the dark background, where the name of the tournament sponsor is highlighted in rich turquoise. In the absence of players, referees or audience, the tennis court appears eerily serene and alienated from the supposedly energetic, boisterous tennis championship. Similar to Wood’s other paintings, the canvas turns into a geometric puzzle symmetries and asymmetries. The painting’s composition of the intentionally cropped tennis court, reflecting the artist’s modus operandi, shows a disorienting sense of space — the perception of depth has completely disappeared and three-dimensional space is compressed into a flat surface with a chromatic emphasis. While the intensity of colour foreshadows the energy suspense that builds up before the tennis tournament, the slightly distorted advertisement board detaches the subject from familiarity.
Having graduated from a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, Wood understands the subtle effects of colour and composition on his audience. Although he grew up in an art-savvy environment, he initially thought about pursuing a career as a doctor. For his undergraduate studies, Wood went to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a liberal arts school in New York where he could study both science and arts. By his penultimate year, Wood had completed his psychology major requirement and decided to devote his senior year to painting. Wood was later accepted into University of Washington’s Master of Fine Arts program, where the artist began imbuing his artistic creations with elements stemming from his psychological studies.
Through his continuous exploration of the interrelation between aesthetics and psychology in painting, Wood has redefined beauty in prosaic imageries. As he turns to personal memory and sports to feed his imagination, his paintings present a glimpse into the artist’s personal life and interests. May it be a still life or pictographic sports venue, Wood’s oeuvre resonates well with viewers. Among his geometric compositions and flat colour planes, Wood finds his art-historical lineage of Henri Matisse, David Hockney, and Alex Katz. His works oscillate between a portrayal of representational space and abstract decoration while adding a refreshing contemporary take on modernism and pop art.