Jonathon Dalton is an artist who is obsessive about truth and the perception of truth in his picture making. His paintings are works of exceptional realism, rendered with a hand that possesses the gift of a master craftsman. Technically, his paintings owe much to the Golden Age and the still life paintings of the Dutch Masters. However, Dalton’s interest is firmly rooted in the very real and modern world.
As the artist observes, it is a contemporary world filled with people who obsess with self-image and self-interest. It is a world where the multiplication and proliferation of imagery allows for us to only consider things momentarily—before we move on to the next shiny object. It is a world where facts are skewed into ‘alternative facts’ or ‘fake news’ depending on your point of view.
As part of his investigative process, Dalton’s paintings work as a metaphor of broader issues and ideas. The artist draws us into his exquisite still life compositions but they are in fact, allegorical and cautionary tales of our world now. Their beauty, however, reminds us that there is much to celebrate in our world.
Still lifes speak to something instinctual in the human psyche. They are an irresistible celebration of abundance, wealth and luxury. Indeed, they have been since bowls of fruit on the walls of the Egyptian pyramids welcomed the pharaohs to the afterlife. From the villas of Pompeii to the English courts of innumerable Henrys and Edwards. From the Duchys of the Italian Renaissance to the digitally mass reproduced de facto Instagram shares. Still lifes are created to say: “Look how much I have and how good I have it”.
Further, a still life was a testament of the artist’s skill. A painted orange or cherry could be judged on its merits—the naturally mass reproduced fruit serving as witness to a painter’s technique. I wanted each of my paintings to be a celebration of technique, an exquisite rendering of the real. In the largest of the paintings I wanted an uber-clarity, using the sheer size of it to elevate it into hyper reality.
But more than anything, I wanted to paint something beautiful, elegant and binary. Each piece is a very careful arrangement and juxtaposition. They are placed so as to be anonymous—their function removed—becoming only symbolic and totemic. The natural to the man-made, the agricultural to the industrial, the fruits, once alive, to the lifeless bowls. Most importantly, the mechanically reproduced to the naturally reproduced.
But beauty comes not from the immaculate copy of the mechanically mass reproduced, but in the subtle and nuanced differences of natural mass reproduction. Beauty exists only because of the effortlessly error prone inefficiency of nature. A beauty imperfect.