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Exhibition Review

Jonathan Gardner: geometric abstraction on the boundaries of reality

Sanghee Kim

Jun 08, 2021




Jonathan Gardner 
Silvestre, 2020




Horizon is Jonathan Gardner’s first solo exhibition at Jason Haam gallery in Seoul, and his first time showing in Asia altogether. Surrounded by greenery and situated on the hill, the location of the gallery is fitting with Gardner’s five new works depicting nature, which are painted on a flat surface yet in an uncannily three-dimensional way. 


Displayed straight ahead of the entrance is Silvestre (2020), a painting of flowers and leaves in a dark blue vase in front of a mirror, which does not reflect the vase and its contents. This surreal gesture soon invites the viewer further into Gardner’s Matisse-like geometric abstraction, quickly moving away from a sense of reality. 


Sunbathers (2019) is the most elaborately composed work in the exhibition, with its perspective suggesting a personal encounter and even slight voyeurism. The elements in the painting are universal and rendered simplistically, yet together they create a complex narrative raising questions around location, the subjects and referring to Picasso’s familiar work, Bathers (1918). The painting is striking in its ability to layer multiple references into a single canvas, in a way that feels orderly rather than chaotic. 


No doubt it is a skill to allow different figures and objects to coexist in one landscape and in every work in Horizon, Gardner achieves visual balance through careful and seamless juxtaposition. Despite containing unusual references at times, Gardner’s entangled constructions avoid any sense of discord or discomfort due to the relaxed gestures with which he paints: these images of nature and leisurely surroundings symbolise a break from everyday life. 

Women often appear nude in Gardner’s paintings, however, in paintings such as The Island (2020) this artistic choice does not appear sexual. Instead, it is an element that makes harmony with nature and portrays beauty – indicated by the way that the female form is perfectly echoed in the shapes made in the sand. She has not been painted nude for the sake of nakedness itself. Characteristic to Gardner’s style, The Island (2020) is made surreal through the woman’s inclining position and the strange floating castle behind her, yet the foreground remains a familiar scene, a woman sunbathing on a beach: giving the viewer a dream-like universal pleasure. 



Jonathan Gardner 


Jason Haam, Seoul 

Apr 22 - Jun 15, 2021