Jonjo Elliott

Your oeuvre is dominated by a wide range of plants and flowers. What is the
significance of making foliage the primary subject of your artworks? Do you
have a special relationship with them and, perhaps, a green thumb?

I’ve always had an interest in botanical art and the history behind it. I
remember as a kid I’d draw and paint the plants that were in my parents’ garden. I love trawling through the shelves of charity shops looking for ancient botanica drawing books. I definitely have a green thumb and have re-designed all of the gardens at the houses I’ve lived at. Our current house is a full renovation job as it has not been updated since the 70’s and the garden was unbelievably overgrown, but I’ve loved the challenge of getting it back to its former glory with a growing collection of plants. Another big influence has come from travelling. I really started featuring plants in my paintings around 2017 when we were in Crete where there was this huge potted plant next to our pool which was just the coolest shape and had these massive bright green twisted leaves growing from it. I painted it the day after we got home. I think it all comes down to the fact that I see plants as new life growing all around us and I just enjoy looking at them.

Equally as important as the flora you depict are the vases that they are kept in. Sometimes vases are overlooked because the focus is on the flowers or plants. However, there is an incredible amount of effort in the design of your vases; to name a few: some pots feature skull patterns, others have a floral pattern, and one even has ‘Coca-Cola’ written on it. Each design seems deliberate, and so what is the decision behind making such decorated and thought-out vases?

Again, it comes down to my research. I’ll be honest and say I’m a massive geek
when it comes to all genres and areas of the arts. I read and watch loads on the subject and this has a huge influence on my work and my compositions. I like the vases to relate to each other so in some paintings I’ll sit a Warhol vase next to a Picasso sculpture because they were both mentioned in a book I’ve read or a documentary I’ve watched. It’s all relatable to what goes on in my head.

What do you decide first: the design of the vase or the flora it will hold?

My process is totally random. I literally stretch my canvas onto the wall then
stand in front of it for a while before I start to draw an outline. There’s no initial sketch on paper or anything like that; I just start making the shapes and go from there. Once the composition is in place I’ll start to think about the details such as the artists I love or the plants I want to add, then it all just starts to make sense.

In addition, you also create painted ceramics. What is it like to see your bright vases in both a 2-D and 3-D form?

I love making the ceramic pieces that can be picked up and handled-- they have
such a cool feel to them. It’s a very different process compared to making a
canvas which sits flat, stretched out in front of you. I love the challenge of getting everything to fit onto a round surface. I’ve got big plans for a new series of larger pots which I’ll be working on soon; I really want to see where I can go with the process.

The other details in your paintings are fascinating: sometimes vases of plants will sit atop of books that are titled with artist names and art genres or the background will feature a painting of Picasso’s or Basquiat’s. Can you talk more in depth about these art history ‘easter eggs’ and why you like to include them in your work? Is there a specific artist or art movement that you are inspired by (or attracted to)?

Where do I start? I’m inspired by so much from art history, music, film, travel, books... the list goes on. I have a huge respect for artists from the past and I like the idea that I can combine a modern approach with art historical references in my paintings. Basically I think artists paint what they love and what they are drawn to.

In the history of art, artists (like Matisse) have referenced their other works in their paintings, and so have you ever included one of your actual painted pottery in one of your paintings? And vice-versa: has one of your paintings ever been painted onto one of your ceramics?

My canvas paintings have featured pots I’ve made alongside houses I’ve stayed at whilst travelling. I’ve even copied small drawings made by my kids and re-painted them into picture frames which sit among books and plants in my
compositions. I did get my youngest daughter to draw one of her pictures onto a canvas whilst I was making it, so her art now sits in a collectors house in
Switzerland, which I think is just awesome!

Finally, how did your current style develop? You’ve mentioned that your practice took a sharp turn after the death of a loved one, and you’ve transitioned from a monochromatic palette to one that is robust and filled with vivid colors. (In as little or as much detail you would like to include), how did that event impact you and your work, and is this new direction of color parallel to some of your outlooks on life? And what would you want viewers to take away with them after looking at your artwork?

I decided a long time ago to be a positive person and I want that to be felt when people see my art. Positivity, happiness, optimism, life, and vivid colours are the most important aspects of my work and my life. I think there’s enough sadness in the world without me adding to it. I try to focus on the good things every day and I’m one of those people who will stand for ages and just look at a pink sky, a tiny flower breaking through the concrete, or at an amazing view.

Last great media (movie/book/show/music/etc.)?

Book - I’ve just read The War of the Worlds which was amazing and I’ve also
just got a copy of a book of interviews with Alex Katz from a charity shop for £4!

Show - I love watching Youtube videos of galleries and art fairs from around the world. They're a great way to see what’s going on in the art world without leaving my lounge.

Music - 60’s, 90’s, skate and surf rock, and brit pop; I love so much music.

Movie - I’ve watched Once Upon A Time in Hollywood a few times since it was
released and I love the retro LA style and soundtrack. My go to movies will
always be Big Wednesday or Point Break though, absolute classics.

Click Here ︎ to see Jonjo’s work.
Jonjo’s Instagram: @jonjoelliott

Interview by Tiffany Kang.

Court Tree Collective was established in 2013 by a group of artists and creatives with the primary purpose of representing and supporting the work of emerging and established contemporary artists. Since its opening Court Tree Collective has been a staple to south Brooklyn’s emerging art scene and in a short time has exhibited a number of important exhibitions. In addition they have curated a number of exhibitions at satellite locations throughout the states and abroad.

We are a family-run art gallery specializing in emerging artists to offer a unique and intimate experience for art enthusiasts. Court Tree Collective showcases outsider art, which often defies traditional artistic conventions, alongside works by up-and-coming artists to add depth and diversity to the gallery's offerings. Visitors can expect to encounter raw, authentic expressions of creativity that challenge perceptions and ignite curiosity. By nurturing rising talent and championing unconventional voices, the gallery plays a vital role in fostering a vibrant and inclusive art community.

Our gallery is curated by artists for artists, which fosters a dynamic and supportive environment where creative visionaries can thrive. With firsthand understanding of the artistic process, the curators can showcase works that resonate deeply with both artists and audiences. This curated space celebrates diversity, innovation, and experimentation; it provides a platform for emerging and established artists to connect, collaborate, and showcase their talents. By upholding a community-driven approach to curation, the gallery becomes a vibrant hub for inspiration, dialogue, and artistic exchange.︎



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