Some things are better experienced firsthand. This is true of the work of JonHen, as his wildly layered canvases contain hidden messages and intricate invitations to scenes of a strange gravity. Anointing the beauty of dark corridors, he exposes quick moments that might have otherwise been concealed: a wayward handdrawn script, a glossy pattern above a flat black background that only comes visible to the eye when one contorts the body to the left.
Amalgamating surrealism, pop, cubism and the abstract, JonHen illustrates glimmers of humor within the walls of a dirty kitchen in the “Dirty Ol’ Acre” of the Merrimack. Be it in Lowell or in Lawrence (where the artist is based), he carefully pulls from the slag piles of the obscured, the unrecognized dirty little secrets that haunt us: that which the cold and looming hand of affluence ignores.
JonHen’s provocative references seem infinite. The ballooned eyes in his piece entitled Eggs Again evoke Wil-E-Coyote, as we suffer through the boredom of cheap breakfasts day in, day out; a Jane’s Addiction album cover is redrawn in Why a Woma See a Man With a Broken Hart, [sic] as the smooshed figure of Perry Farrell and his girlfriends tower like melted apparitions.
People speak of Basquiat when describing JonHen, but look further: he calls upon and reveals archetypes that we don’t even know we are conscious of. This boldness in his vision is as though modern art and pop monoliths are strewn, with no hint of irony, in unison before us. His raw and uncomfortable impressions insidiously make a dent on one’s mind, tempting us, leading us to refer to our collective memory as a lens through which he focuses his inner thoughts. It is rare to encounter a vision that can make these mixed mediums and raw edges conjoin and gel in order to maintain the interest of the viewer. There is so much hidden in these layers that we must look, even if it stings, because we seek to become conscious of what we choose to see or not to see in ourselves.
Look Into My Eyes by JonHen was on view through Feb. 2nd at UnchARTed Gallery in Lowell. More information on UnchARTed can be found here.