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Spotlight on Alumni: Jonathan Green

By Bojan Fürst

Jonathan Green is a printmaker and a recent Sir Wilfred Grenfell College graduate whose work has been receiving a lot of attention locally. He is currently working out of St. Michael’s Printshop in St. John’s and his work is on show at the shop as well as in Layton Gallery. His latest series of prints are inspired by his interest in the Arctic and Arctic exploration. He talked with our contributor Bojan Fürst at St. Michael’s Printshop.

BF: Tell me about yourself. Where are you from?
JG: I am from Carbonear, Newfoundland. About an hour away from St. John’s. I grew up there. I decided to go to Sir Wilfred Grenfell College four years ago and I graduated this April from the BFA program up there.

BF: When you describe what you do to people, what do you say?
JG: I am an artist first and second of all, I am a print maker.

BF: What kind of materials and processes do you usually use?
JG: Drawing is the basis of all my artwork. I am an average drawer and a decent draftsman and from that I received a scholarship here at St. Michael’s Printshop. So I use my drawing and metal plates — coppers, zinc — or a lithography stone which is a limestone from Bay de Verde area and I make prints using these materials, ink and paper and all kinds of other fun, nasty chemicals.

BF: Where does your inspiration come from?
JG: The idea behind this show is a line from Jane Urquhart’s The Underpainter that she actually wrote during her residency here at Memorial in St. John’s years ago. There is a line in it about a character’s own interior Arctic. I was into deserts at the time and doing a lot of desert imagery, but Arctic struck me more as being closer to home. then I discovered that Arctic is considered a sort of a desert and I though: “Okay, I see a trend here.”

BF: Most of the prints in this exhibit focus on the Arctic and some of them feature Captain Bob Bartlett. Is there a personal connection, or did you discover him through your research?
JG: I am from Carbonear so I am close to Bob Bartlett’s hometown so I’ve been to the museum and all that, but it never struck me as important. Later I was reading the explorer’s accounts, like Robert Peary and I found Bob Bartlett mentioned as a captain of Peary’s ship during his expeditions. So I though that’s interesting that there is a Newfoundland connection. And now I am here at St. Michael’s and St. Michael’s used to be a United Sails Works shop — they were selling canvass sails to ships and all that stuff. And I found this obituary of the first owner of the sail shop and I was reading this obituary and it turns out that where St. Michael’s is today, they made and sold sails for the Roosevelt, the ship that Bob Bartlett was the captain of and that went to the North Pole. So here I am making my prints right in the very same spot. I mean, wow, this is an extraordinary coincidence.

BF: So you are a fresh fine arts grad, making a transition into the real world. How do you find it? Is it different than what you expected?
JG: A lot of people tell you: “Oh you are going to be a starving artist...” and that does kind of prepare you and yes it’s hard being an artist, but I find that when I received the Don Wright Memorial Scholarship from St. Michael’s that allowed me to get a jump start on it. I mean, I got one year rent free studio space here as well as materials honorarium and a personal honorarium, just cash for yourself. So got studio, materials, inks — I got everything that I wanted. I had to put in hard work, but it started to get me shows. It enabled me to work hard at my art and to show it at different places.

BF: What are your next steps going to be? Are you going to continue exploring the Arctic?
JF: I think so. There is so much history up there. I am still very much up there, I am still into Arctic imagery, just pushing in different directions. I’ve been also thinking about making more sculptural pieces out of paper. I also have a work-study position opening in Banff starting April 20 and I will be up there for six months.

BF: Any advice for your colleagues who will be graduating in a few weeks?
JG: I hate giving them advice because they all know me. [Laughter] you know just focus. Choose you goal and than just work. Hard work really does pay off. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it’s gotten me everything I have. Just work hard and don’t stop.