The intricate and colourful world of Jonathan Ball is inhabited by creatures that have been informed by a life-long exposure to game- and cartoon culture. The art is nature on steroids or busy urban environments with lights. These compositions are carefully orchestrated and have an amazing depth. That is, not just the type created by computer perspective but also by particles in the atmosphere. To achieve this, the artist prefers to work in his head as aided by the software Blender, Illustrator and Photoshop.
The props and characters are weird and wonderful things that are rendered in saturated colours and are somewhat enhanced. One has an extra floating camera for surround vision, which may or may not be useful in alerting you to anything oncoming at a scrapyard of smarties. Something is clearly amok in many of these compositions, and one of them is scale. Sometimes a cute looking character turns out to be so large that it could kick over buildings like shoe boxes – if nothing else – by accident.
Jonathan Ball is synonymous with Poked Studio in Cardiff, and the commercial illustration work is what supports his habit of creating art. Like Andy Warhol and his Factory, Ball appears to straddle commercial art for large blue-chip clients and fine art for the rest of us.
He even bends the dogma of what is fine art and what is graphic design. You know, the art school dogma which dictates that fine art is free and wild, and commercial art is prostituting itself under a tightly defined brief. However, nothing could be further from the truth. When Ball works for the likes of BBC, MTV, Sony and Microsoft, he is often given free reigns to create something wacky and off the wall. Conversely, some of the most creative fine art has been created within the constraints of a brief.
Not the stereotypical artist — if one ever existed
Big corporate brands aside, many fine artists have their own brand as shaped by the media. When they succeed they tend to be much-loved caricatures of themselves. E.g. Gilbert & George are the ‘gentlemen of acquired tastes’, Tracy Emin is the ‘ill-adjusted girl’, and Grayson Perry is the ‘Tranny Potter’.
Ball, however, says he has never given his own persona a single thought in the context of his work. But he concedes that it is a good idea to get there first with something that is easily recognisable. And yet, he is certain that it is possible to be a straight-forward family man who simply does something creative with his time, and let the results speak for themselves.
That is exactly who he is.
The refreshing thing about Ball, is, that he does not have to be a fine artist in the conventional sense. That in turn means that he does not have to follow the unwritten rules and expectations of White Cube the Goldsmiths et al. To give you an example, he is not big on exhibitions to raise awareness and to sell. Except for one exhibition in 2011, he has had no time to exhibit between commissioned work.
The Works of Poked
Ball can be acquired via ClickforArt in limited editions under his alter ego ‘Poked’. These prints come numbered with corresponding Schoelleshammer hologram labels both on the verso and on an accompanying certificate.
The trouble with Digital art, however, is its digital and easy-to-copy nature. View this fact in the light of collectors being trophy hunters of unique one-offs, and you soon notice a tiny problem in this set-up.
Jonathan Ball is currently weighing up the pros and cons of creating signed and verified ‘one offs ‘. That is, originals where the digital source material is handed over to the collector, and any other copy destroyed. It is similar to the act of post WW2 art photographers who agreed to handing over their negatives. The last bit has paid off considering that much analogue art photography now fetches decent prices in prominent auction houses.
You can find out more about the artist by visiting his website.
Courtesy of the artist, © Jonathan Ball, Poked Studio; All rights reserved.