Peter Jones, Matt Monkey, 2016, Oil on canvas © Peter Jones, Courtesy of Collyer Bristow Gallery, London
Could you explain this work?
"Matt Monkey" is one of an ongoing series of portraits of antique soft toy monkeys and apes which I collect for the purpose of painting. The monkey in this painting is both a still-life object and a portrait subject. The monkey paintings were originally conceived as traditional symbols of primitivism and amorality, and as such evolved into metaphorical portraits and indeed self-portraits too.
What does this piece deal with?
The monkey in this painting is resting his head on the ground with his visible ear prominently alert. The narrative potential implied here is disconnected from vanitas still-life tradition, which is always symbolic of mortality. Additionally, the idea of painting a meaningful portrait of an old stuffed toy found on eBay, without known provenance seems an unlikely ambition to achieve. "Matt Monkey" represents lost friends, and distantly remembered friendships.
What medium and techniques did you use?
"Matt Monkey" is painted in oils on linen canvas which I always prepare with an oil primer tinted a warm brown or beige. Michael Harding’s are my favourite oils and hog hair is my choice of brush. I always make one or more preparatory pencil drawings on paper which I usually complete with coloured oil washes and it is from these studies that I compose the paintings on canvas.
What were the struggles of making it?
When I look for subjects to paint I collect only those objects which seem to suggest the most potential to be documented and/or transformed by painting. I have no interest in nostalgia, cynicism or sentimental kitsch, but these all hide unseen in the aesthetic mine field all artists paint their way through.
What is the purpose behind this work?
Art inspires and consoles. I also hope a smidgeon of gentle and wry humour is discernible.