Jonathan Wateridge was born in Lusaka, Zambia in 1972. He has shown in several international group and solo shows including ‘British Art Now’ at the Hermitage State Museum, Moscow, ‘Beyond Reality: British Painting Today’ at Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, ‘Another Place’ at the Palazzo Grassi, Venice and ‘Enclave’ at HENI, London, in association with Pace Gallery, between 2010 to 2016.
Wateridge's paintings are elaborately crafted 'non-events' that have the trappings of a real occurrence but for the most part are entirely fabricated. A significant part of his work over recent years has been to reconfigure or re-make a given scenario or found image. This involves building full-scale sets and using performers to enact roles, within the context of the studio, in order to set up questions about the way we frame and understand notions of the real. His work initially employed painterly realism as a 'default setting' by which to view the world, curbing any excesses of style to emphasise not only the often fleeting, banal and everyday quality of the scenes depicted but also the nature of their construction.
More recently, this has given way to an increasingly lyrical use of paint which explores the tension between the social dimension of the figuration and the more formal and expressive qualities of the work. This Side of Paradise, is his latest series of paintings, the title of the show itself referring to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1920 debut novel of the same title, which told of the downfall of its protagonist from wealth and privilege.
The pool itself features prominently in the entire series, and the approach Wateridge uses to present it is utilised throughout all the series' subjects. The pool, its surroundings and the figures depicted are all distorted to varying degrees - colours are mixed up, forms are abstracted and minimal. The pool itself appears unwelcoming. The poolside figures are far from the grinning, posing holidaymakers one might expect but muted, static forms with expressionless faces and milky eyes. The series bursts with atmosphere, and on further analysis more details reveal themselves.
In this series, the viewer appears as an unwelcome guest to the poolside scene. The figures are all still, motionless, sometimes staring out at the canvas towards the viewer, and at other times lie by the poolside in an almost corpselike manner. The pyschological effect this has on the viewer is difficult to understate. As the series progresses, the draped, lifeless bodies become more frequent.
These large works were begun in late 2019, and demonstrate a paradigm shift in Wateridge’s style of painting, with loose and suggestive brushstrokes and use of colour. Early modernism is evident in the colour, which echoes fauvism, but the positioning, composition and atmosphere of the shots is perhaps more evocative of Edward Hopper, and like Hopper's work, explicitly what the paintings imply is left to the viewer to decide.
Wateridge currently lives and works in Norfolk in the UK. Click here to see his work currently held on the Bridgeman Archive.