Jon Voss is a very cool artist and architect who lives in the South of France. His artistic work http://www.jonvossstudio.com/ is a marriage between nature and machinery. Those things may seem to be at odds, but not in Jon’s world. In fact, he considers them personal obsessions. Here’s our cool chat …
“… Art will affect people who don't care. They see it, they just aren't aware of its effects. Creativity through all of the arts is a huge part of what defines our culture and without culture what do we have?”
MICHAEL: Hey Jon, Your work is so cool. First off, you seem to be fascinated by whales and flying things. They show up in your drawings and sculpture. What's the deal?
JON: In truth, I have a total obsession with animals of all kinds. I am and always have been left completely mesmerized by the inherent beauty of the natural world. It's absolutely perfect, unmatchable excellence in design. This fascination drives much of my experience - one of such was to become a sailor, crossing oceans where I had personal interactions with intelligent sea life, thousands of miles from land.
JON: My other key fascination is machines, the old, heavy, slow, beautiful type, made of sweat, iron and brass from an age before the microchip. It is the juxtaposition of these diametrically different personal obsessions and their inevitable clash with each other in our delicate environment that drives my work.
MICHAEL: Your sculptural work is very intriguing. It certainly captures the awkward clunkiness of whales. What type of materials do you use to create them? Is anyone going to buy a whale sculpture or is that not the point?
JON: For me, the point of my work is to study something truly beautiful and hopefully allow that to come across in my work. The hidden objective is also to raise awareness of issues that face our environment and subsequently affect the public consciousness. In regards to selling, yes, of course it’s vital to survive. The whale and shark pieces have generated a lot of interest which leads to sales of my other illustrations and some new sculptural commissions which is great. So far, however, I have not publicly exhibited the marine sculptures, focusing for now, on producing.
Material wise, I work predominantly in hand shaped steel and stainless steel often with various patina methods. However, I also use gold plating, ceramics, wood and anything else that may seem appropriate to put across the identity or theme of the particular piece I'm working on. I love making things, I know how to make things and I love variation in what I do, so I prefer to keep my palettes open.
MICHAEL: I love the drawing of the whale and people falling into the water. That seems to be an environmental statement, but I love the artistry of it. It almost has a blueprint vibe. No?
JON: Yes, I like that piece also and I'm planning a new larger drawing along the same vibe. I like the apparent stillness and serenity it offers the viewer, capturing a fleeting second in time, while the content suggests a much more violent, frenzied story. In regards to a blueprint feel, I like to work in very sharp detail. It’s really my style and contrasts well with a dream-like, softer background. Again it’s juxtaposition: hard and soft, sharp and blurred, nature and machine.
MICHAEL: Your kinetic works look mainly experimental. Motorized wings? Gadgets? What's your inspiration there?
JON: The motorized wings, “Flight of Fancy,” is experimental or rather it’s a prototype to develop a mechanism that can be up-sized for a larger scale public light sculpture. As I said before, I'm fascinated by the beauty of nature and of machines and indeed the phenomenon of flight. The mechanization of the wings is really a challenge to myself. Can I show the beautiful, fluid and elegant movement of a bird’s wing in flight through inventing a simple mechanical system that I can fabricate with basic tools? It’s not an easy task to mimic nature accurately and a bird’s wing in flight is generally considered a very complex movement and therein lies the challenge.
MICHAEL: Aren't you an architect by trade? I hate to put labels on you, but does your work veer more toward Traditionalism? Modernist? Post-Modern? International? Also, do you consider architecture that's made today contemporary art?
JON: To be honest, I don't think of my work from a stylistic point of view. I believe people like to organise or categorize art into nice, neat boundaries because we feel safe with boundaries. They help people understand and discuss the work. I'm sure I'm not the first artist to say my art is my style. It is the inside of my head and that communicates with my hands. People can catorgorise it as they see fit.
MICHAEL: I understand.
JON: The architecture question/link is often debated, but for me, it is very clear. Architecture and art are very different things and rightfully so. I can write an essay on this, but very simply put, architecture is for living inside, art is for living with. They may share some elegant proportions that please the eye, but that is where the similarity should end. To design architecture to be a stylized type of art is to ignore its function and purpose, unless that purpose is as a piece of art, in which case it ceases to be architecture.
MICHAEL: Most people on earth today don't pay much attention to art or architecture. They may notice it in a subconscious way. What's the point of these things when many people don't appreciate them?
JON: Well hopefully, the more we show and publicise our art, the more people will notice. However, I do believe the subconscious is a powerful thing. It affects our thoughts, feelings and actions a lot more than we might realize, hence art will affect people who don't care. They see it, they just aren't aware of its effects. Creativity through all of the arts is a huge part of what defines our culture and without culture what do we have?
MICHAEL: Aren't you in London? Great Britain in general is such a rich art and culture nation. Do you think the Brexit decision will ultimately help Britain?
JON: Actually I live and work in Antibes in the south of France. However, I am a British citizen. My personal view is that people are stronger as a united group. Breaking away may mean less hemorrhaging of funds to the bureaucrats, but will it be a culturally-wealthier country as a result? I doubt it.
MICHAEL: Interesting. What do you think about the contemporary art world and art market and how they function? Do you feel part of those worlds?
JON: I am part of that world in that I am an artist working within it. However, it is not an easy market to function within. I’m finding my own path through the maze however and so far so good. My sales and following are mainly driven through word of mouth to date, but I am ambitious so always looking for new opportunities to grow.
MICHAEL: Finally Jon, So many people today don't really appreciate art let alone collect it. So what's the point? Why be an artist when it's so difficult?
JON: Well, while many might not appreciate or collect art, I know millions out there thankfully do. I love creating art, sculpting in particular and what could be a better profession than doing what you love? I suppose the other reason for being an artist is I feel I have something to offer, a story to tell. I have been given a skill to enable me to do this storytelling and intend to use it to the very best of my abilities, regardless of what others may say, think or do.
MICHAEL: Rock on Jon. Thanks. I’ve enjoyed our chat.
Check out Jon Voss at http://www.jonvossstudio.com/.