Johnathan Andrew Roberts was born in 1974 in a small town close to Orlando, Florida. He has been painting for more than 25 years, having undertaken diverse artistic projects such as the creation of a 120 m long scroll painting, a surrealist-fantasy exploration of basic universal concepts such as love, war and the interplay of innocence and brutality.
His paintings, digital artworks and drawings have been shown in numerous venues within the United States and Europe, and most of his paintings are in private collections in the United States and Europe.
He is a founder of the Zagreb Art Kolektiv (ZARK), a not-for-profit organization focused on utilizing emerging technologies, particularly those related to mobile internet, as a means of uniting artists, educators, IT specialists and business professionals for cultural, education and community outreach purposes. In collaboration with the Zagreb Museum of Contemporary Art, he facilitates monthly creative workshops for people of all ages and walks of life.
John currently lives and works in Zagreb, Croatia, where he is the founder/director of Sekvoja Centar, a school for arts and languages. He is also a co-founder of Blue Marble Translations, an international language services company.
Painting is a way of connecting with life, ordering my thoughts and making sense of the world as I experience it. Giving my thoughts a concrete, objective form helps me to come to grips with my place in society and nature. Painting my way toward understanding things that interest me comes naturally, since I’m a visual sort of person (when I do any sort of abstract problem-solving, the solution generally comes to mind in pictures, rather than words or symbols) and perhaps also because some of my earliest recollections are of the murals my mother (also an artist) covered the interior walls of our home with. Painting is in my blood. Of course there’s always the desire for self-expression and perhaps the lure of being able to leave a little bit of beauty to posterity, to give something back to the world instead of only taking from it.
Most of what I do is semi-abstract not because I want to avoid clarity of meaning, but actually to allow me to speak to people more clearly and directly, since to one degree or another, all languages are essentially abstractions of broad concepts. In fact, most of what I do could be classed as what neural scientist V.S. Ramachandran calls ”the figural primitives of the brain”. Instead of painting flowers or a landscape or a person or whatever, I prefer to make paintings which are simply suggestive of those things. Instead of a flower, you get ”floweriness”. Instead of a landscape, you get ”landscapiness”. Rather than a person, you get an impression of raw consciousness. By using a more primitive sort of language, I hope to overcome barriers to understanding that occur because of any personal, cultural, or generational biases a viewer will have built up over the course of a lifetime. My aim is to bypass all mental barriers in order to send a direct jolt to the emotional and intuitive centers of an individual’s mind.
An aspect of the physical world that I take advantage of when composing a painting is the fact that only a few simple patterns underlie the great diversity of things we see and experience. Dazzlingly complex structures arise from the interaction of only a handful of forces that are constrained by fairly simple rules. That this is so is made evident by the vast amount of repetition of form and function that we see in nature. That even a child can spot the similarities in the form of our branching network of veins and blood vessels and the branching network of a tree’s limbs or a coral reef and from these similarities intuitively begin to understand such concepts as harmony, is a miracle that’s beyond my comprehension. It’s beyond my comprehension, but it is a phenomenon that I’m happy to make use of. This is especially noticeable in works like ”Quaquaversal”. The painting came about while I was reading a lot of books on the subjects of particle physics, higher-dimensional geometry and Jungian Psychoanalytic theory. It represents my idea of what a five- dimensional structure might look like to someone with a three-dimensional frame of reference. The word quaquaversal comes from geology and describes a mineral formation that radiates in all directions, but the word also seems like a good term for describing pan-dimensional objects. Following the theme of moving in all directions at once, along with the premise that the interplay of opposing forces is one of the foundations of Beauty, I crowded together as many competing visual analogies of energy as I could fit into one space without making it impossible for a viewer to pay attention to what they are looking at: Complexity Vs. Simplicity; Clarity Vs. Ambiguity; Harmony Vs. Asymmetry; Ease of perception Vs. Sensual overload; Stillness & Slowness Vs. Movement & Dynamism, Microcosm Vs. Macrocosm, etc. It is also an attempt to show just how complexity can arise from simplicity. Each layer of paint, from the smoothly continuous base-coat to the foam-like pointillas of the final layers of color, represents an imagined force that obeys rigid rules of behavior. Once I set up the rules of behavior, (”This color can co-exist with this color, but not that color. This color can flow in this direction, but not that…” and so on), the painting practically creates itself. One point of all of this is to illustrate the belief that if you break down any set of rules to a simple enough level, you can describe something about almost any system, large or small. And if any set of rules can be used to describe anything, isn’t that positive proof of the fact that there’s essentially no difference between macrocosm and microcosm? This calls into question many of our established beliefs about the nature of cause and effect because it suggests that beneath the foam of the quantum mechanical interactions that make up our surroundings there may be a deeper sub-level of reality that resides outside space and time, binding together everything that exists in a way that is absolutely immediate, ruling out any possibility that there is such a thing as coincidence and highlighting the fact that Creation is governed by deep inner harmonies and symmetries.
My main reason for using a pointillist style is that it has a way of gently capturing our eyes and gradually (but not catastrophically) over-stimulating our attentional systems until one’s sense of time is overwhelmed, leading to a slightly hypnotized, contemplative frame of mind that guides us to the edge of the place where mind and matter intersect and, hopefully, reminds us that even as we are contained by the whole of existence, each of us likewise contains the whole.