Five questions to Jon Berkeley

Five questions to Jon Berkeley

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Jon Berkeley is a Dublin native, born a month before the Beatles released their first single. He has lived and worked in London, Sydney and Hong Kong, before settling three decades ago just outside Barcelona. His transferable skills and intense work ethic from many years as an award-winning illustrator resurface in his abstract painting.

How did you get into art?

I’ve been drawing since before I could talk. As a child I was fascinated by album covers and book jackets at least as much as by their contents. I never considered any career that didn’t involve painting. 

How would you describe your style? What makes your work special?

These abstract works are an exploration of colour and energy, drawing on the eclectic fiesta culture of my adopted home in the hills near Barcelona, and the sun-drenched serenity of the Spanish landscape. Some typography creeps in here and there, and a little humour too. It’s hard to keep them out. 

How do you go about developing your work?

My paintings begin with a digital sketch process. I search ordinary day-to-day photographs – mainly my own – for tiny, unnoticed areas where colour and shape interact in an intriguing way. I enlarge these small details, layering and combining them until they create a compostion that sings. The resulting ‘sketch’ is just a starting point for the painting, which evolves and acquires a whole new character as it crosses from one medium to another. My aim is simple; to infuse the joy of the process into the work so that it emanates from the paintings themselves.

Who or what influences you?

My early influences were illustrators like Ralph Steadman and Roger Dean, the former as wild and expressive as the latter is controlled. Expressionists like Andre Derain and Henri Matisse taught me more about the impact of colour. Abstraction is something I have come to more recently, having worked in a figurative way for many years. I work to music, always, and this can direct the mood of a painting in subtle ways. The freedom of abstract work is deceptive. Getting it right is a challenge that I find really exhilarating. 

Make us curious. What are you planning to do next?

I have a number of canvases and panels prepared, and am creating sketches for a new series of large works. What will emerge from these is – as it stands – anybody’s guess. I hope to be as surprised as anyone else by the results!

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