Johnathan Reiner's first solo show in London, and we're lucky enough to
have it at Hang-Up! We thought we'd set a few things straight before the show on the 1st of December...
This is your first solo show, in London, and you’re based in Tel Aviv, with a family, and you’re also working 24hr shifts at the hospital. We salute you. Surely this has been a challenge?
Tiring, challenging and gratifying!
For years now I have been clinging on to my two interests and occupations with a ferocious survival-like passion. I have come to realise quite early on
that I wouldn’t be a happy person if I couldn’t keep up with the two. Creativity brings me peace, serenity and is in many ways meditative for me (and
is sometimes a substitute to sleep) but is quite lonesome and isolating for me over long stretches of time. Medicine works on my cerebral side and
keeps me engaged with the world and reality outside of my own psyche. 24 hour shifts are an absolute killer, but then I come back home, and the only
way to unwind before I collapse is to plunge into some colours, lines and patterns!
In the lead up to the exhibition I have no doubt pushed myself to the limit but in some ways knowing I have a target and having a deadline in mind pushes
me to work effectively.
Saying all this, if I didn’t have the support of my partner and daughter I wouldn’t have managed to sustain this for long. In that respect I am full of
gratitude and am now enjoying getting back to spending some quality aimless time with them both.
Johnathan on a visit to Hang-Up Gallery, viewing his originals.
You’ve been an artist of Hang-Up's for over a year now and we have built a solid relationship which has turned into your first solo show, ‘Femme Fatale’, which we’re all super excited for. What persuaded you to approach Hang-Up initially, and how have you found the experience of working with the gallery?
At the time I was living in Dalston and over the years I would pass by Hang-Up (in its previous location) and would secretly dream of having my works displayed
I was working at Print Club at the time (where I basically developed my screen-printing abilities) and was steadily building up my portfolio of editions
until I gathered the courage to walk in and introduce myself.
I was overdressed and was sweating profusely!
Fortunately I was greeted by the lovely crew that you are and was given the opportunity to work with you.
What I like about Hang-Up is the genuine professional yet fun-vibe relationship that we developed, from our random chats when I pop into the gallery, to
drinking a mug of prosecco in your private views, to discussing art!
It’s a very unique position to be in where somebody actually believes in your work and is in to promoting you and pushing your art forward. I am still
excited to be hanging around with the cool cats that you are and am humbly and eternally grateful!
Your new work for the show is centred around these vintage portraits of women, adorned with ceremonious dress. Your additions to the portraits adds a sense of power and indulgence to the women. First of all, where do you locate the vintage model portraits from, and what are you attempting to portray with your lavish illustrations surrounding them?
I have always been a buff of the golden-age cinema and often take my references from films and photographs of the time.
In particular, the Totem and Colonial Beauty Series is based on portraits of the Ziegfeld Follies – which was a New York based vaudeville club based on
the Folies Bergère of Paris.
The women who performed there were the pin up girls of the time and being part of the line up was often a stepping stone to stardom.
The Ziegfeld Girls (as they were called) were often photographed and portrayed in a stencilled repeated pose (mostly by Alfred Cheney Johnston) – slightly
aloof, fragile, looking into the distance, wearing lace and adorning a pearl necklace intertwined in between their fingers. This notion of beauty nowadays
looks naïve and slightly anaemic and in fact strips out the individual persona of each of these models.
My intention was to raise the status of these portraits from a cliché of beauty which one might covet into a strong spiritual being which one might worship
(hence the name of the series: Totem). Using natural elements, patterns and traditional attire from tribes and ancient cultures from Africa to Japan
I attempt to tackle our pre-conceived notion of beauty and introduce something fresh, powerful and individual to each of these women.
Totem Alma - Johnathan Reiner £395
The show will host a brand new collection of limited edition screen prints, some of which are embellished with glitter and gold leaf, which is a first for you. What encouraged you to do so?
When given the opportunity to do this solo show my mind was suddenly rushing with ideas and thoughts on how to expand creatively. What’s nice about it
is that you allow yourself to think bigger than you would otherwise…
When applied to screen printing one of the first things for me was to consider gold leaf and glitter which I never used. I know this sounds trivial, but
as my prints are multi layered and often full of colour, it is difficult to consider which gentle touch would elevate the work even further. It’s like
adding a pearl to a simple gold band ring. I wanted to add a new dimension to the work but not be too flashy about it and I hope this comes across
in the new works.
There’s one male figure entitled ‘Warrier Boy’ amongst an array of female figures, which Hang-Up will be officially releasing as a Hang-Up edition which we’re super excited about! Why did you choose to introduce one male portrait in an exhibition entitled Femme Fatale?
Warrior Boy - Johnathan Reiner £495 (Exclusively published by Hang-Up Pictures)
Warrior boy is very special to me and I am super chuffed that you guys offered to make it exclusive to Hang Up! For a while now I have been
attempting to produce works with male portraits and wasn’t happy with the results. When considering Femme Fatale’s repertoire I felt there was a need
to tackle the male figure again and ended up working on a portrait of a boy who as it seems is one step short from manhood.
This allowed me to approach the male figure with a slightly different vibe – I wanted to portray fragility alongside something fierce, to portray someone
who is in essence naïve and imaginative and wild but who is also aware of a change about to occur. The boy is much younger then the women portrayed
around him, yet he carries the red glitter heart and the cupid arrows with a sense of responsibility and seems to be ready to protect those who he
cares for ferociously, I like the boy.
Challenging one but we have to - Whats your favourite print…??
I seem to be changing my mind on a daily basis. Each of them carries a different emotional weight for me and portrays a different emotion, which I connect
to when I am in a specific mood.
Saying that, I am extremely excited about “Cosmic Gathering” at the moment, purely because it’s my first multi-character print and was a lengthy and very
challenging process and I am super happy with the result! The women there portray a mysterious and appealing sentient feel and I can tell myself non-stop
tales about what I see in the piece.
Cosmic Gathering - Johnathan Reiner £595
You’ve created a collection of original artworks for the show - something which we’ve never released/ displayed of yours before. How was it getting back to working on original artwork? How do you feel about the outcome, and is it something you will continue and explore?
Working on the original pieces is probably the biggest added value of this exhibition and the thing I am most excited and simultaneously anxious about.
Before screen printing I created work mostly with biros and it's been a while since I worked with this medium.
Most of my work is very thought through and goes through many stages of checking and tweaking and adjusting digitally before it is broken down to the analogue
process of screen printing.
Going free-hand again and applying ink and colour onto physical paper was very liberating and I was excited to discover a whole new sense of pleasure once
I let go of my fears and self-criticism. In these works I use biros, pencils, Posca pens and acrylics each with utter joy .
Now that I unleashed the monster, I will no doubt continue exploring this angle.
The originals seem to focus on censorship, or more like the absurdities of censorship in recent. The ‘Free the Nipple’ campaign comes to mind… Could you talk a little about your development process?
The work is built upon and based on original erotica magazines from the 1960’s and 70’s which I gathered throughout the years in vintage and car-boot sales.
The work superimposes porn and faith and considers both as a form of mass consumerism which utilises strategies one might encounter on Tele-Sales
networks (hence 1-800-blasphemy).
In continuum with the Totem series, these models too are objectified, captured and reproduced in magazines aimed at providing a cheap thrill with no thought
or mention of the actual person being photographed. The superficiality of this common practice in porn and in erotica is in many ways not far from
shouting out evangelistic slogans which lack depth and shamelessly aim at recruiting people by using the most common denominator.
These works indeed aim to be absurd, to pose a scene full of contradictions, using erotica, Disney cartoons, typography, emoticons through mediums such
as acrylics and pens and to challenge the viewer to make sense of these opposing visual queues.
Repent Later - Johnathan Reiner (Original) £695
I love “Ring For Salvation” – purely because she was the most challenging to work on and was the first I started with and one of the last to be complete.
I enjoy taking in the colours, the powerful stance of the model and the overtaking octopus around her, which was a last minute addition to the composition.
She was no doubt a surprise that unfolded to me the more I worked on.
Ring for Salvation - Johnathan Reiner (Original) £695
We absolutely love your badass lady Eve. You did this in collaboration with the amazing breast cancer charity Hello Beautiful. She has a serious dose of tattoos, an anarchy symbol on her blouse and some devilish red nails and makeup- what influence did Hello Beautiful have on the design?
I first met Jane and Kevin from Hello Beautiful
at Print Club where we were each working and where we got talking. Both Jane and Kevin have personalities, which emanate positivity and goodness.
After getting to know Jane a bit better and hearing the background story, which led to the creation of Hello Beautiful, I knew I wanted to be involved
and be part of their narrative. I collaborated with them firstly on a painting on a plaster cast of a female bust post mastectomy for an exhibition
they held and throughout the years was part of a few campaigns they ran raising awareness to cancer prevention.
Eve seemed to fit in perfectly with Hello Beautiful’s agenda – she is powerful, fearless, resolved and content.
Hello Beautiful take the fear and darkness out of the cancer agenda and bring in creativity and embrace health with joy.
Eve seemed to be a natural when I approached Hello Beautiful to take part in the exhibition.
Kevin from Hello Beautiful working on the print.
Eve - Johnathan Reiner £150 (100% of proceeds go directly to Hello Beautiful charity)
We think it’s pretty cool that you are both doctor and artist. Is the transition between the two roles ok or do you find it tricky?
I enjoy both worlds really and over the years I have learned to embrace these contradictions in my life with peace. It has become easy for me to jump into
each role and provide a space for each. In fact, the two worlds seem to exist in complete isolation from the other.
What I do find tricky and what would be my ultimate goal is how to bring the two worlds together. How to be creative in my practice of medicine and how
to create using themes of health, mortality and the brain. That seems like the real challenge.
What came first? The medic or the artist?
I grew up in a creative household with my mother being a surrealist artist.
I have memories of me sitting for hours in her studio playing around with colours and compositions or staring at portraits of women with buttons for eyes
or scarecrows crucified in a field of pumpkins.
Our idea of a family vacation would be to spend hours in museums and the appreciation of art was key to our household.
So it was when I went to study neuroscience and then medicine that my parents raised their brows in lack of belief. I think they are happy that I have
found the middle-way to enable both in my life.
Johnathan posing with Colonial Beauty - Elephant!
Do you consider medicine to be an art or a science?
Medicine is based on the scientific understanding of the human body in health and disease. But the practice of medicine is an art form. And to be a good
doctor one has to nourish creativity on many levels from taking a good medical history, reaching a diagnosis, establishing a treatment strategy, developing
a trusting relationship with your patient to breaking bad news. It is the artistry in medicine which I enjoy the most.
Does your practice as an artist contribute to your practice as a doctor and vice versa?
My time spent creating gives me the patience and tenacity to be in hospital as a resident in Neurology day in and day out.
Furthermore, exploring and developing an idea creatively is in many ways a diagnostic process – learning what is in front of you, investigating different
ideas and tailoring what works for the image and for what it is you are aiming to achieve.
You have a pretty rich cultural background - American, Israeli, lived in London, USA and now based in Tel Aviv. Where do your ties lie and why?
That’s a difficult one to answer...
I was born in the US and spent most of my childhood between the USA and Israel because of my father’s job.
I don’t think I ever fit in completely to either cultures and when I was old enough and ready to choose where I want to live I moved to the UK where I
spent the last 13 years and to which I feel most connected at the moment as it is the place I built as a home for myself as an independent adult.
I feel, just like with art and medicine, that I have a place in my heart for each and that I cannot commit myself to one but am happy to allow them all
At the moment it is Tel-Aviv, but my mind is always looking forward to the next destination.
Johnathan with his sisters. Circa 1985. New Jersey
Is there a difference in how your work is received in London vs. in Tel Aviv?
Yes, my work is considered to be foreign in Tel-Aviv and I am not really in line with the themes often explored in this part of the world. Screen printing
remains a novelty and in that respect I am an odd bird over there, in a good way! I feel more familiar with the London crowd and feel more at home
obviously with my work mostly produced here.
You have been living and working as both a doctor and an artist in Tel Aviv over a year now after doing the same in London. How do the work/play environments compare? Give us a few pros and cons about both.
Yikes! Difficult one.
London is endless, full of opportunities, events, happenings, seasons, parks, urban sprawls, people and cultures. All you need to do is reach your hand
out and grab whatever it is you feel like doing in that moment. My experience in medicine was a good balance of work and fun.
Tel Aviv is like the premature, younger, bastard of a brother to London. It is small but assumes it is much bigger than it actually is, it is irresponsible,
rowdy, hot and humid and has a wicked night life and a long stretch of a beach which redeems it from everything it thinks it is… one ends up
loving Tel-Aviv as it leaves you no other option. And even though work in many ways is harder (with 24 hour on call shifts) I just put on my flip flops
and cycled in shorts to the beach in November so I can’t really complain.
You made your own prints down at Print Club in London before you moved, and now you’re abroad you don't have those facilities anymore so have to put your trust in the good people of K2 and Print Club for the first time. How was it handing over the process of making the prints to others?
I thankfully have talented people around me who are both friends and master printers by profession and thank god they are still my friends after the build
up to the exhibition! Thank you Diego Mena and Sam Baldwin!
It was difficult handing over the printing process to someone else firstly because I actually love the process of printing myself and secondly because
it turns out I am a bit of control freak... but for the sake of this exhibition it was a good decision and it allowed me to focus on the original pieces
which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Johnathan doing his thing.
Last time we hung out was at the opening for Lauren Baker’s exhibition where you spent the evening with a large mug of prosecco. What’s your favourite tipple?
Frozen beer when it’s smouldering hot and a glass of whisky on a cold dark eve. Won’t refuse another mug of prosecco though!
Selfie with gallery manager Carla and sales assistant Laura!
If you could choose one gallery to exhibit at (apart from Hang-Up of course), anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Tokyo.What's been the most inspirational exhibition you have visited recently?
My life style in the past year – what with a newborn baby, a residency in neurology and working on this exhibition has not left me much time to see exhibitions
(sadly!) ... though one that definitely left an impression on me was ‘Marcel Odenbach: Inside-Out’ at Tel-Aviv Museum of art which displayed his massive
intricate collages of interiors and exteriors.
Do you have any massive influences; artists, public figures, musicians etc?
Many… can't think…. Off the top of my head: Richard Lindner, Anselm Kiefer, PJ Harvey, Bjork, David bowie, Billie Wilder, David Lynch, Pedro
Almodovar, Raymond Carver, Roberto Bolaño…. Can go on and on and feel like I missed out on someone
Favourite Hang-Up artists?
What feeling/ideal/message do you hope people come away with after visiting the exhibition?
I hope people will enjoy the exhibition first and foremost. I also hope there will be a sense of reverence to the females portrayed and lastly I hope people
will leave intrigued about the layering process and how the works were achieved.
We are working on a colourful, tropical, summery vibe which should appeal to anyone in these dark December days.
Colonial Beauty - Elephant - Johnathan Reiner £395
Plans for the future in terms of work - both artistically and medically?
Medically - Continuing my training as a neurologist and sharpening my medical skills.
Artistically – started playing around with new themes but at the moment enjoying the fishing process however long it may take
Describe the upcoming exhibition Femme Fatale in five words.
Colourful, Punchy, Tropical, Sexy, Cool.
Thanks for your time Johnathan!
The exhibition, Femme Fatale, starts on the 2nd of December,
with the private view on the 1st and we'd love to have you there, RSVP here.
Don't hesitate to get in contact if you have any queries: firstname.lastname@example.org, or give our team a call on +44 (0)20 3667 4550.