Unfolding into a form of buttery yellows and whites, the piece of popcorn depicted in Jonathan Crowther’s ‘Just Add Butter’ makes a much more exciting meal out of the everyday.
With his hyper-realistic style and over-size canvases, Crowther is exploring the mundane, finding beauty in the most unlikely of objects. His recent ‘Anything but Ordinary’ exhibition at Brisbane’s Lethbridge Gallery, shows this Goondiwindi-born, Melbourne-based artist is coming into a realm of his own.
Brett Lethbridge, owner of Lethbridge Gallery, is no stranger to fine art. He himself is a renowned artist and has exhibited his artworks around the world. An old friend of Crowther’s, he is incredibly encouraged by Crowther’s work, his creative spirit and dedication to his craft. Pointing out the beautiful colouring and the intriguing forms within the works at the gallery, Lethbridge notes that Crowther’s talent has seen him experience accelerated growth as an artist. Painting is the third string to Crowther’s artistic bow; his talents have also seen him create as a sculptor and a musician, something that Lethbridge calls the multi-talented curse. While he says that Crowther improves as an artist year on year, he cannot wait to see what he does in the future.
Crowther has exhibited his works, both sculpture and painting, since 2004. His first major art prize was in 2009, when he was named the overall winner at the The Churchie National Emerging Art Prize. He has been a finalist in major prizes before and since, including the Northern River Portrait Prize at the Lismore Regional Gallery in 2011 and 2012.
A childhood growing up in Goondiwindi, surrounded by vast stretches of cotton farms and grazing country, has informed Crowther’s work, notably his relationship with space. It was in these early days that Crowther found his first inspiration – his grandmother. Her oil on canvas portrayals of the Australian countryside left him keen to learn more. After university in Brisbane, Crowther originally worked as a sculptor. Although this finally gave way to painting, his knowledge of the three-dimensional form continues to feed his painting style. The hunger for further education eventually led him to Melbourne in 2013, where he now calls home. Studying a Master of Contemporary Art at the Victorian College of Arts has been somewhat of a necessary process for Crowther. The first year of the course is designed specifically to break the students down, and the second year sees them develop as artists who are truer to themselves and their craft. While he admits the first year was a challenging process, he is immensely happy with his final artwork, which was presented at the VCA School of Art Masters Exhibition last year. This final artwork from his studies stands taller than Crowther himself. At first it looks somewhat abstract, but on closer inspection you can see it is in fact made up of pieces of blue-tak, each contorted, torn and stretched, blown up in scale and hyper-realistic. His technique of building a painting with layer upon layer is exemplified in this work, showcasing his deft skill at creating form using shadow and light. The result is truly extraordinary.
A selection of Crowther’s works is available from the Lethbridge Gallery online. To find out more about the artist, visit jonathancrowther.com.au.
Words by Alice Thompson | Images supplied by Jonathan Crowther