Icons Series by Jonathan Centeno

"Stardust Marilyn" 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

"Stardust Marilyn" 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

I am often asked about the inspiration behind the techniques employed in my Icon Series.

Let me begin by stating emphatically that there is no formulaic technique followed.  Each piece charts its own course. The common elements are found simply in the materials used- often, but not necessarily always.  Again, each is a work of art, independent, and new.  The quantities will be low, and when I am fine with having explored the series to my satisfaction, I will move on.  

I want to give some insight as to the roots of the "technique".

"Come Fly With Me" 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

"Come Fly With Me" 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

As a 62 year old, I recall the worn hand-painted signs that were everywhere in my city of Toronto in the sixties and early seventies.  Having spent much of my childhood in my grandfather's and father's grocery stores on Dundas, and Oakwood, and Yarmouth and finally Rogers road, I was surrounded by painted signs.  It wasn't long before I was actually making them for the family business.  They allowed me a break from the mundane work of filling empty shelves with cans of beans and packages of pasta.  

My earliest recollection is of one of my uncles using shorthand to make a sign for a special on "cantaloupes".  He was pretty good with a marker, and his sign for "Loupes", 2 for 1 on sale is forever etched in my memory.  

I lived on Christie Street and walking home from Essex Street Public School meant passing by the Gibson Broom Company, with its many painted, worn signs which showed evidence of having been re-painted at least five or six times.  The old colours seeped through, and at times, you could see evidence of the previous sign.  One happened to be an ad for Seven-Up in a previous incarnation.  So cool.  The passage of time.

So that's it.  That's where the visual reference comes from.  It's funny, but in recalling these memories, I only remember sunshine.

Enjoy the Icon Series while it lasts.

"King's Wheels" 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

"King's Wheels" 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

The Nuclear Dali of Turin (presented by S. Hawking) by Jonathan Centeno

Nuclear Dali of Turin (presented by S.Hawking) 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel.

Nuclear Dali of Turin (presented by S.Hawking) 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel.

Salvador Dali was and still is, sublime, ridiculous.  If you are an artist working quietly in your studio, trying to make heads or tails of imagery involving Dali, he haunts you.  It's as if he is still calling the shots.  He chooses what stays and what goes.  Literally.  

I was working on an image late one evening in my new studio when I suddenly decided to scrap it.  The piece involved imagery of the major events and people that shaped the twentieth century collectively forming a "portrait" of Dali.  I was not pleased to say the least.  I had spent 12 hours on it.  I took the hose to it.  As the water hit the wood panel, what emerged was a very haunting image.  The paint should have come off evenly.  After all, the layers had hardly enough time to dry.  I had them all in there- historical figures, giants of the 20th century including Picasso, Warhol, Einstein and others.  The only figure that survived the onslaught is found on the bottom left.  I couldn't hack it off even if I tried.

Isn't that just like Dali?  The only figure he decided to hang with on this particular piece happened to be the greatest mind of the century.  All others were not worthy.  Dali, in his "humble" way would have wanted to leave the accident as it happened.  He would have acknowledged that perhaps a higher power was worth mentioning as witness to the happening (hence Turin, as in Shroud).  

I'm pretty sure I didn't have much to do with this piece.

 

Nuclear Dali of Turin (presented by S. Hawking) 56x46 mixed media on wood panel

The Golden Girl by Jonathan Centeno

Golden Girl 56" x 48" mixed media on wood panel.

Golden Girl 56" x 48" mixed media on wood panel.

Sometimes a painting seems to just make its way home.  It appears to have been meant for the space in which it hangs, but more importantly, it seems to have always been in the hearts of its owners. 

Placed above elegantly understated furnishings, Golden Girl infuses the entire space with colour.  The space oozes quiet elegance, and confidence.  This is a home, not just a space. These sophisticated collectors are, quite frankly, not just interested in decorating.  The pieces they choose resonate with them.  The art comes before furnishings, chandeliers and other frivolities.  They are concerned with the 

art in and of itself.  They genuinely feel the intent, and are passionate about their collection.  It is the only way to purchase fine art.  

Sometimes the experience of meeting the collector exceeds all expectations.  Serendipity.  Six degrees of separation.  So much in common.

I am strict about naming names in this space, and will continue to do so, but my art has opened doors to fine people all over this orb.  What is it about an art purchase?  You don't really need it.  

Ordoyou???  Perhaps we see a bit of ourselves in the art we choose.  And that's a good thing indeed.

Many thanks to our new friends,

Pietro.

Velvetor!!! by Jonathan Centeno

"Velvetor" 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

"Velvetor" 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

He was a Velvet Skeletor.  We find him in this piece as an ancient fragment dug out of an archaeological site.  Maybe the Shroud of Pittsburgh.  It intrigues me that so many young artists are "into it"- the whole sixties thing.  They do their thing with some safety in the notion that they were not there, but hey, they can relate.

I do my thing in the safety of the notion that I was there- and could not relate. I was cozy in my world of university studies and part-time jobs.  Busy being the good son of Italian immigrant parents.  When I got the chance to move to the Big Apple and study at Parsons I jumped at it- NOT.  That my mentors, profs and instructors were royally pissed off at me would be an understatement.  I want to thank them for leaving me alone. 

I loved the time, the vibe, the paranoia, the experimentation, the fashion, the constant feel of an approaching storm, and the notion that it might just last forever.  I chose not to get high, but to get high on my art.  So this Warhol is not a depiction through rose-coloured glasses, but it is predicated on the feelings that have changed after so many years.  The colours are not quite so, and the mood is not quite so. 

I'm not coming down any time soon.

VELVETOR, 56x46 mixed media on wood, 2017 by Pietro Adamo

Have a safe, and fun-filled summer.

"Recurring Dream" by Jonathan Centeno

"Recurring Dream"

I was given the honour of painting a very special piece to figure prominently in the family room of dear friends. They had already commissioned the now famous

"Among the Whites" in the Giardini series. 

I wanted to complement it, but I was given carte blanche, and the result was the piece you see here, in this space.  The reaction by the entire family ( 5 members) was as exciting as it was humbling.  It had hit the mark.  The ethereal nature of the piece, inspired by their birthstones filled their eyes with joy.  Peridot, Sapphire, Emerald, and Opal were the sources of colour, and to some extent, texture.  The deeper inspiration came from my own experience as a father, and as a son, and soon to be grandfather. 

The notion of arriving on this planet as but a moment in time has been with me since childhood.  It has been part of an recurring dream in which the certainty of the continuity of consciousness is revealed.  A most reassuring notion.  I wanted to share this gift with them.

Many thanks.

"Recurring Dream" 48x48, mixed media on canvas, 2017

Wild One by Jonathan Centeno

The Wild One 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

The Wild One 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

Marlon, Marlon, the WILD ONE. 

In a society in which conformity is becoming seemingly irresistible through technology, romantic heroes of the not-so-distant past speak to us in ever louder voices. They may have only portrayed heroes, but through their art, they were heroic in their presentation of those values we hold dear as human beings.  We are all wannabes.  We want to do the right thing, we want to draw upon our inner strength, we want to be defiant in the name of freedom, we want to be clear of conscience knowing that we fought the good fight, and we stood tall, unscathed in our beliefs, and in the defense of our fellow human beings.  At least a very good percentage of us feel that way. 

Brando, or perhaps the image of Brando is that persona. 

Perfect? Nope.  Flawed to a fault.  But he owned the faults.

So I painted him on wood.

Why wood, you say?

What does wood bring to the table? (please note: I have consumed but a glass and a half of Nebbiolo)

It is the medium that carries the message, like the fat in a ribeye.

The painted wood panel, using silkscreen, the "advanced technology" of a bygone era to transfer the image onto and into the wood through the infusion of acrylic and water-based oil pigments-well, let's just say it brings us back....way back.

The imperfections in the panel shine through.   The faults.  That is where the beauty lives.

Lead us not into the temptation of perfection, and eternal boredom.

 

Marlon, Marlon: The Wild One,  56x46 mixed media on panel 2017.  Hazelton Galleries, Toronto, Miami

 

Jazz Club by Jonathan Centeno

Jazz Club(sold) 24" x 48" Mixed media on canvas

Jazz Club(sold) 24" x 48" Mixed media on canvas

The music sets the tone for the evening. I and my better half are enjoying a casual dinner at a neighborhood jazz bar that has been highly recommended by the proprietor of a fine Montreal gallery with whom we are happy to do business with (breathe! long sentence, I know).  I never mention names in this space, so trust me, the gallery and the club are worth the trip. 

Although I could not tell a Coltrane from a Baker, I still love what I hear.  So much so that I am going to keep this vibe until I get back into my studio.

  In the sixties, almost all documentaries based on abstract art were set to jazz music.  Cool.  Very cool.  I'm there now, in my mind's eye- feeling the cold concrete of brutalism in the surrounding buildings, interrupted only by the occasional frenetic canvas, strewn across the wall like a random afterthought.  It comforts me.  Modernism is cold-very cold.  Or is it?  When viewed through these older lenses, a strange warmth emerges. I only recall the heat.  The heat of youth.  And you know Picasso emphatically stated that: "Youth has no age".

Jazz Club, 48x24 mixed media on canvas, Sold ( Gallery 133)

It's Spring.  Chill.

La Grande Voglia Dell'Alfa by Jonathan Centeno

"Toes in the Sand" 40" x 48" mixed media on wood panel

"You and Me by the Sea" 40" x 48" mixed media on wood panel

With today's record high temperatures, spring fever is on everyone's mind. I need my old Alfa back. Or maybe I should get a new one.  Or maybe not. Whatever.  The air is thick with nostalgia today.

My nostalgic pieces, pictured here are done in the same manner as the Icon Series.  They are mixed media on wood, deliberately stressed and varnished in such a way as to evoke feelings brought about when viewing roadside signage in the fifties and sixties.  Whether you were on the way to the beach alone or with a group, the signs seemed to shorten the trip.  By today's standards, they might have, at times seemed politically incorrect.  I believe they were rather free of politics, and more concerned with the moment, and the happiness that could be experienced.  Nonetheless, it sometimes is better to look back through rose-coloured glasses and imagine that it all came up Elvises (ELVII?) and Marilyns.

Let me be the first to wish everyone a truly fabulous PRIMAVERA!

CIAO,

Pietro

 

"Toes in the Sand", 40" x 48", "You and me by the Sea" 40"x48" available through Hazelton Galleries, Toronto, Miami

Blue Blood by Jonathan Centeno

Blue Blood : Back to the Future 40" x 48" mixed media on wood panel

Blue Blood : Back to the Future 40" x 48" mixed media on wood panel

In the painting commissioned by my son, three rising stars are depicted as the central protagonists in the newest chapter of the Blue and White story.  They are the future, and they are surrounded by the spirit of cup winners of the glorious past.  The history of the franchise is there in victory, and only in victory.  Brief moments of cup glory engulf the eager, young hopefuls. They are in good company, with simple homage being paid to the teams that toiled from 1967 to 2016 with a noble, white graphic leaf which seems to be a fading footnote.  The past that the young guns look to is not found in those years, and not in that particular crest.  The future they seek is reflected in names such as Apps, Armstrong, Bower, Clancy and Keon. The history of those crests is scattered throughout the piece in blue.

They mean no disrespect, and they too; bleed blue.  They seek the cup.  Nothing else will do.

Blue Blood: Back to the Future,40x48, mixed media on wood panel, commissioned by R. Adamo

by Jonathan Centeno

Absolute Beginner   46" x 56" Mixed media on wood panel

Absolute Beginner  46" x 56" Mixed media on wood panel

In the composite of the late great artist pictured above, I regarded the project as an honour, and treated it with the respect I believe is appropriate in examining a figure whose work has touched many lives, including my own.  It is never my intent to simply capture or convey, but to work toward a new end, a new image.  The title is from a less popular lyric (Absolute Beginner) but an entirely appropriate one to sum up the true experience in the creation of any work of art.  The blank canvas, or the blank music sheet, or perhaps the raw block of marble- all are daunting, all call the artist to task. The butterflies in one's stomach must accompany the creative process for the magic of art to happen. One should always feel like an absolute beginner.  One should continue to fall in love with one's art, over, and over again.

Many thanks to the collector who now owns the piece, and who, in some ways made it happen.  The piece is in a private collection, and so the privacy of the owner shall be respected.

As for my part in all of this?  I've nothing much to offer.  I'm an absolute Beginner.

Billboard Boss by Jonathan Centeno

Billboard Boss 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

Billboard Boss 46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

Imagine a seventies summer's day, cruisin' down a Jersey turnpike, Stingray's top down with the radio blasting out Born to Run.  A billboard ad catches your eye and you think, sh*!, I wish I had my camera!  The worn out images of the Boss are barely hanging on through the time-tested barrage of the elements.  For you, it's practically like coming across the Shroud of Turin.  You stop the car to pay homage.

The image of the Boss is etched in acid green, purples and pinks, all worn in but still flashing some brilliance.  The background screams Born in the U.S.A., and your mind's auto- response is a somber "Glad that F*!#'n War is over."  

But you know it's never over.

Flash forward to present day.  The mirror hands you an image of a man who's barely hanging on through the time -tested barrage of elements. You whisper to yourself: "Lord, thanks for the Sixties and Seventies, the soundtrack of my life." You went out for a ride and you never went back.

 

 

by Jonathan Centeno

Once Upon A Silverscreen (Audrey Hepburn) 40" x 48" Mixed media on panel

Once Upon A Silverscreen (Audrey Hepburn) 40" x 48" Mixed media on panel

I am overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response to the Icon series.  Nothing new here.  It has all been done before.  Or Has It?  Whenever I was approached by the self-defeating "It's all been done before" by my students, I would simply respond with "Yes it has, but not in your unique style".  So I will continue to paint the Icon series, in my unique style, always with an eye toward fine art, and a presentation that distills the essence of the persona, illuminating strong qualities that might be overlooked in commercial, fan-club and popular imagery.  I let subtleties in mood created through colour and placement of motifs create a new picture of the individual.  In Who New?, Andy Warhol's hair is not the shock gold-silver colour expected, but a glamorous pink setting off an entirely different vibe.  In Taxi Driver, the entire composite of De Niro is rendered in black, Payne's Grey, and white.  A rather sober colour scheme for the serious actor for the ages.  The central concern for me is the painting.  It is, after all, just that.  The stressed wood panel suggests old-fashioned billboards of a bygone era.  The resulting nostalgic patina is appropriate in that we always seem to see these figures as "once upon a rose-coloured time".  They are always in the glorious past, even if they are still living.

Malaparte: Cielo Rosa by Jonathan Centeno

The Giardini Series has been a vehicle for transmitting emotion, through colour and texture.  The subject of this blog is the latest in the series.  This one is titled: Malaparte: Cielo Rosa.  The piece came about after October the 14th, the day of my daughter's wedding.  Yes, I am the lucky father who walked the aisle with my beautiful daughter on my arm to "give her away" to a fine young man (I can't think of an elegant way to say this so please forgive me- I also truly feel we have gained another son). Our hopes, dreams and wishes for our children often seem to be at odds with reality, but sometimes, like on October 14th, the stars align.  I could not think of a better way to preserve the intense happiness that we felt  that day as parents than to express it on canvas. The setting was ultra-modern, sophisticated, and in keeping with times- but the truth is, in a very old-fashioned way, two families simply gathered together in celebration of their children's nuptials.  A time-honoured tradition as old as the human race itself.  Is there a better excuse for a party? The weather was perfect, culminating in a rose-coloured sunset sky.  The venue was perfect (Malaparte) but mostly, the protagonists, were and are, perfectly suited for each other.  A lifetime of happiness is definitely written in the stars

Like A Rolling Stone... by Jonathan Centeno

46" x 56" mixed media on wood panel

Nobel prize.  LITERATURE.  Well deserved-but it seems so obvious to those of us who have lived with, and sometimes by his words.  It is fitting that his words, possibly more than his music will endure.  The ghostly image of this soul who set the tone for a generation is haunted by his own words and incarnations in the image above, called Invisible Now.  

Winning the Nobel, probably the most "establishment" award one could think of- well, now you got no secrets to conceal...How does it feel?

Invisible Now 56x46 mixed media on wood panel, available through Hazelton Gallery, Toronto.

 

La Porte Rouge by Jonathan Centeno

Title:"La Port Rouge"

Title:"La Port Rouge"

I finally got the chance to visit the Maritimes.  Cape Breton, Louisbourg, the Cabot Trail, PEI, Fundy, Halifax, Lunenburg, Peggy's Cove.....well, it was certainly inspirational.  "La Porte Rouge"  (54x54 mixed media on canvas) is my first response to this magnificent, hauntingly beautiful part of Canada.  It is concerned with the vastness, the rough and smooth erosion of the rock surfaces, and the earnest resolve of the original settlers as represented by the colours against the predominantly gray and white background.  The coloured areas come directly from the painted wooden simple vessels and dwellings.  They hold their own against the dominating background.  They bend, but do not break.  La Porte Rouge is just that- derived from a tiny dwelling on the Atlantic shore near Lunenburg, 

angled against the wind, surf and rain, it's brightly painted gables and doors weathered and worn- and more beautiful because of it's story.

Often, abstraction reveals a clearer truth.

Post Matrix by Jonathan Centeno

title: Post Matrix size: 48" x 48" x 1.5"  medium: mixed media on canvas

 

After the Big Bang (really?).  And if there is or ever was a logical, organized mess as this universe evidently must be according to whomever you wish to quote,  then what of the moments immediately prior to the BB?  Was it a logically organized situation packaged into a sub-sub-sub-atomic nano nano particle?  Was it some sort of mathematician-pleasing matrix?  Or was it- GOD (Heaven Forbid) And what did it look like in the immediate moment after the BB?   When it all began to expand, seeking freedom as it unfurled...I imagine the post-matrix to have been as beautiful as it was chaotic........

Post Matrix Series available through Saatchi Online Gallery,  Hazelton Galleries,  Gallery 133, Crescent Hill Gallery, Frame of Mind Gallery.........

A Day In The Life by Jonathan Centeno

I read the news today oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph.
He blew his mind out in a car
He didn't notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They'd seen his face before
Nobody was really sure
If he was from the House of Lords.
I saw a film today oh boy
The English Army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
but I just had to look
Having read the book.
I'd love to turn you on
Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke,
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream
I read the news today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.
I'd love to turn you on......

by Jonathan Centeno

Tempesta D'Amore

Encounters

     Tempesta D'Amore and Encounters were two pieces from my private collection which is, on an ongoing basis, featured on Saatchi Online Art, under Pietro Adamo, artist.  The pieces in this collection have adorned the walls of our homes, and some still do.  Our lifelong friend, Dawna would stare at two particular works which "spoke" to her, both on a professional and personal level.  As a long time top realtor, it is easy to understand her interest in the moody,atmospheric "Encounters" which hints at possible chance meetings and relationships in the big modern metropolis of today.  The colour, division of space and hint of what I like to refer as "Classic Italian Old Film Elongated Proportion" render this piece in a somewhat romantic light.  That it should wind up in a dear friend's personal collection is deeply rewarding, especially since she virtually examined it whenever she visited our home- and she is a person who definitely knows what she wants.  Again, I want to emphasize that I believe this choice was rooted in her intellectual (very) and professional side. 

    My instinct tells me that Tempesta D'Amore tugged at her heart strings.  Her personal story contains more triumph over adversity that I am at liberty to discuss.  I have no doubt that the sense of optimism that happens as a sudden storm passes, which is suggested in the piece, was a factor in her attraction to Tempesta. I know that the viewer may interpret the ascending forms as anything from horses to dragons but I assure you, there was no intent.  My mood that day in the studio was relaxed, and yes, triumphant.  I had finished an especially tedious commission successfully and felt I needed to move on.  The evening prior I had watched documentaries on Goya, Velasquez, El Greco and the Golden Age of Spanish painting and I recalled my visits to the Prado and to Toledo.

There is no doubt I had a Goya moment in the emotionally charged Tempesta.  Any person familiar with the wildly beautiful brush strokes of Goya can easily spot the influence, even if this work is pure abstraction.  I needed a title- as I stared at the azure, cream, emerald and crimson- but nothing seemed to resonate.  The phone rang.  It was my elderly but still very relevant mother who informed me she had just watched a moving episode of her favourite current soap opera which was titled Tempesta D'Amore.  

Encounters and Tempesta D'Amore are now in the private collection of D. Borg.  I can sleep, knowing that two of my personal favourites are much loved.