‘More lasting than bronze’ | EAF 2016

artists, Jonathan Owen

Jonathan Owen
Untitled, 2016
19th Century marble statue with further carving
Installation view, Edinburgh Art Festival commission, Burns Monument, Edinburgh, 28 July – 28 August 2016.

Photograph: John McKenzie
Courtesy the Artist/ Edinburgh Art Festival/ Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh


Installation view of the solo exhibition Jonathan Owen.
Ingleby, Edinburgh (28 July – 28 August)

Photograph: John McKenzie
Courtesy the Artist and Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh


The Erased Drawing

Jonathan Owen


If we think of Owen’s process of creating a drawing by removing parts of the whole, by taking away from an already existing image, we are reminded of the artist Robert Rauschenberg, who first instigated this concept as an artwork.

In 1953 Rauschenberg set out to push the limits of an artwork and the traditional notion of the artist as creator by using this type of action. He began by attempting to erase his own drawings, but decided that the original drawing needed to have some significance. if its removal from existence was to become noteworthy. Thus he created the Erased de Kooning Drawing. The story goes that he approached the artist Willem de Kooning, the famed and respected Abstract Expressionist, at his studio to ask for an image that he hoped to erase from the paper. De Kooning was reluctant but intrigued, so planned to make Rauschenberg’s ‘neo-Dada’ art act as difficult as possible. He presented the younger artist with a multi-media drawing, covered in layers of ink and crayon. It took Rauschenberg one month to re-present it as a relatively plain white piece of paper.

This subversive action of the 1950s has been described as a form of “genteel iconoclasm” by the curator Vincent Katz, a term that mirrors Owen’s “elegant vandalism” of today.


Image Credit: Erased de Kooning Drawing, Robert Rauschenberg, 1953: Collection SFMOMA © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation


More Lasting than Bronze

about, artists, Jonathan Owen

As part of the 2016 Edinburgh Arts Festival, Owen created his first site specific work, transforming a 19th century sculpture of a nymph. Housed within the Burns Monument on Calton Road, the sculpture reflected the neo-classical temple surrounding it, echoing the homes of similar antique deities from long ago. Owen’s “anti-monumentalising” effect on the sculpture further echoes the history of the space: the removal of the Robert Burns sculpture that once stood in this nymph’s place effectively transformed the memorial into an anti-monument itself, mostly closed to the public, its purpose lost.

Jonathon Jones for the Guardian described the uncanniness of the sculpture: “Something is wrong. Her slender body is harmonious enough to please the most Enlightened philosopher, but her throat is missing. […] Closer up, the horror and disturbance grow.” Yet there was also a great beauty, elegance and poignancy in the nymph’s somewhat lonely position, up on that hill. The sculpture is the first female figure the artist has worked his magical defacement on, using it to subvert the traditional view of the male gaze that once weighed on her.

Read the Guardian Review of the 2016 Art festival here: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/aug/03/edinburgh-art-festival-review-jonathan-owen-douglas-gordon-joseph-beuys-scottish-endarkenment

Jonathan Owen | Introduction

about, artists, Introduction, Jonathan Owen

The unquantifiable nature of what is left behind after we have reduced, removed and sculpted an object is a primary fascination of Liverpool born artist, Jonathan Owen. What happens to an objects identity when it has been altered? How do we know when an artwork is finished and how do we recognise permanence are all questions considered within his practice.

Owen takes ready-made objects, most notably, sculptural busts and film stills and shapes, crafts and re-thinks their formal qualities, creating artworks which are physically less, but conceptually more.

The classic and antiquated qualities of busts and sculptures have centred in a vast series of earlier works by Owen. He begins with a found sculpture, originally crafted in a traditional and regimented way. From here the original form of the artworks are altered and re-shaped using rustic processes; such as the use of a knife or bone. Owen carves chain links through the hearts of the sculptures to create new and contemporary dialogues for artworks previously considered ‘complete’.

For Between poles and tides, Owen’s Eraser Drawings can be viewed on the lower level of Gallery One. Similar to his sculptural works, Eraser Drawings are representative of a mysterious and enigmatic practice, wherein Owen removes layers of ink from images, displaying and uncovering what was or could have been.

Image Chris Park

Lauren Hawkins, Talbot Rice Gallery intern.