You know those macro to micro shots that go from the vastness of the universe and end up on a nucleus of a cell, or something like that?! That, with the addition of the elusive time element, is what John Greenwood’s paintings are meant to represent. Once we were given this key during the recent virtual studio visit with the artist, these convoluted displays of otherworldly but certainly organic forms earned a whole new meaning.

There are countless benefits of getting an art education and being taught how to paint, use tools, and look at your own and others’ work, but one should never forget the impact that teachers and mentors can have. After recently talking with Greenwood ahead of his big US debut with Richard Heller gallery which opens on June 26th, we’ve learned that he is an example of what happens when one tries to mould another person and its creativity. It was many years ago that one of Greenwood’s teachers made a negative remark about his use of color which completely locked the young artist’s ability and confidence to work with bright, vivid hues he was feeling affinity towards. This resulted in years of working with subdued tones instead of colors, in an effort to fit in a box that was allegedly existing for him. Luckily, during those years and decades of working “under restrictions” he kept exploring the aspects of paintings he was drawn towards, polishing his technique along the way to supreme extent. And it wasn’t until only a few years ago that the artist dared to reach for those shiny, light-infused colors and quite quickly had a big break, with international exhibitions lining up one after the other.

One of those presentations will be opening soon at Richard Heller’s gallery in Santa Monica where Greenwood will be introducing an all new body of paintings entitled I’ve got a massive subconcious. Comprising new examples of his “still life in a box” explorations, as well as energized creations referencing the dynamics of graffiti, and more recent assemblages resembling abstracted faces, the variety of paintings reveals Leeds-born artist’s masterful technique and distinctive fields of interest. Going from being “scared of color” to claiming that “throwing color can’t go wrong”, he is nowadays applying his refined methods of depicting levels of light or constructing the illusion of space and spectrum through the use of the most intensely bright colors. As a self proclaimed member of the “brotherhood of small brush”, his tight-assed, traditional approach to using tools and materials enables him to somehow turn any abstracted composition into a realistic looking scene. To some extent influenced by the British cartooning, some of the newest works include elements that push the works closer to the narrative, all while exploring a new range of colors, as well as a wider range of techniques such as gouache, pencil, and ink. Driven by the rediscovered curiosity and confidence, Greenwood is these days also developing methods to give life to his sketches, through the familiarity and well trained use of materials.

Still basing the work on the squigly, bloated imagery on which Greenwood exercises the light play and surface experimentation, all while continuously testing “what painting can do”, the images are continuously shifting from the open plain towards more contained spaces. And it’s these boxes that are referencing the limitations of our brain, the thick, trompe l’oeil walls that are directing our compacted thinking. Whether learned, imposed, or built through another process, they are determining how we store and handle the information we come across. Whether we hang and display all the shiny beads and fluffy crumbs within a bodega-like setup, we cram them inside in a cabinet of curiosity-type display, or we let them go nuts on each other on their own, these picture are captivating reminders of the complexity of aforementioned universe that we are a part, but certainly not the center of. —Sasha Bogojev