As print expert, and occasional collaborator, Charles Booth Clibborn of Paragon Press stated, ‘if you want to discover or even own significant contemporary works of art you need to be looking especially, though not exclusively, in the media of print!’
The historical importance of prints is crucial to the understanding of many of the greatest artists’ oeuvres, from Dürer to Picasso, and today many of the top artists embrace printing as an integral part of their practice.
The old hierarchical distinctions made between the various medias artists choose to make their work in are becoming less crucial and prints are now fully deemed as original artworks in their own right. There has also been a notable turn around in the focus primarily being on content, as opposed to method, which is embraced by artists such as Jonathan who predominantly use digital printing methods.
Not limited to prints on paper, Jonathan has also created edition works in the form of wallpaper, specially commissioned books and experimental sculpture. All of these editions are an ever increasingly important part of Jonathan’s oeuvre. They offer a unique opportunity to experiment with the painted subject, through scale, material, embellishment, and allow groupings of Jonathan’s work in an affordable and accessible manner.
For the most part Jonathan uses digital printing methods to produce his editions on paper. Experimentation with hand finishing, through the use of varnish, gilding, acrylic paint, as well as adjustments to the digital images in the pre-printed stage, add to the uniqueness of each artwork.
This approach is typified in the prints (pictured above) produced for his retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery in London, in 2013, which were printed with archival pigment print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Ultrasmooth paper and embellished with varying designs in either gold leaf, or acrylic paint on the background.
In 2007 Jonathan created his ‘Bush’ collage, which was unveiled in the front window of Lazarides’ gallery in Soho and became an infamous image almost overnight. The collaged portrait, made up of snippets of pornographic magazines, was accompanied by a set of limited edition prints, which remain one of Jonathan’s most highly sought after prints, with very few left in circulation.
The ensuing series of collages made from magazine pornography lent itself extremely well to the medium of print and could be attributed to acting as a catalyst for further exploration into the medium of printing.
In 2011 Jonathan unveiled a new series of works exploring the themes within cosmetic surgery.
A limited number of works from this series were made into prints and Jonathan used this more conceptual themed group of works as a chance to experiment with his printing technique. Several of the works were printed on to a thick brown paper, Saunders Waterford. These works were then hand-finished using marker pens used by real surgeons to delineate the incisions of the knife and the movements of flesh needed to complete the outcome of the surgery.
There was a one-off experiment of printing onto aluminum, to emphasise the clinical nature of the work and several Gravure etchings, which are reminiscent of old medical book illustrations.
Jonathan, along with Charles Booth-Clibborn of Paragon Press, conceived the ‘Some People’ print set in 2012. Each edition of the collection comprises 10 original prints and is enclosed inside a bespoke presentation box (pictured below)
It was the first time Jonathan utilised hand-finishing in his prints, thereby creating an entirely new set of work for each edition. The portfolio of works consists of two etchings, six hand-finished digital prints and two photographs.
Examples of the individual editions within the set
On the heels of the Jonathan’s NPG show, his portrait of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban for courageously campaigning for girls’ education, was offered up to auction at Christie’s New York to benefit the fund in her name. An edition of 50 prints of the painting were co-signed by Malala and the artist to raise further funds for her charitable causes.
In 2014 Jonathan continued to experiment with hand-finishing on prints of his latest paintings and collage, either picking out specific details with gold leaf and varnish or embellishing the backgrounds with white gold and acrylic paint.
In 2014, a show entirely dedicated to Jonathan’s printed edition work was the inaugural exhibition at Lazarides Editions on London's South Bank. Read more here.
Following his major retrospective at the Museum of National History in Denmark, in which Jonathan unveiled a series of portraits of Cara Delevingne, a set of prints were made of a selection of the works. Unlike earlier prints of painted portraits, the images have predominantly been cropped, with ‘Cara Study I (Print)’ as the exception. The use of varnish selectively on the areas depicting flesh contrast the surface texture between the abstract back ground and the figurative subject to great effect.
Jonathan has worked with one of London's most respected framers, Gary Dyson, to create a series of special edition frames for the Cara Delevingne prints utilising hand stained American walnut and brushed or reflective metal for the backboards and fillets.
In 2014, Jonathan developed a Special Edition version of his ‘The Many Face of Jonathan Yeo’ monograph. Each book is clothbound in Japanese linen and Harmatan Niger and enclosed in a Japanese linen slipcase.
Signed and numbered by the artist, the monograph includes 5 exclusive prints: unique black and white photograph from the 1997 Labour campaign trail; unique pornographic leaf cut-out; archival pigment print of Mike Brearley on Canson Mi-Tientes 160 gsm paper; hand-treated archival pigment print of Kristin Scott Thomas on Somerset Satin 300 gsm archival paper; lithographic print on Offenbach Bible paper.
Jonathan’s first foray into working in three-dimensions is a portrait of Dennis Hopper made from the layering of painterly segments set in acrylic.
The technique by which to make the sculpture took several months to refine. The UV-cured ink is lined up on strips of acrylic so that when you are looking at the object from a particular point the seemingly abstract, suspended marks line up to form a portrait. After several attempts at reconfiguring the technique by which the cubes are made, when looking at the object side on, or from above, the layers of acrylic become invisible, resulting in a seamless looking, translucent cube.
The sculpture is an edition of only 10 and is titled ‘In Dreams You’re Mine, All The Time. Forever’, which is a line from Hopper’s character in the film Blue Velvet.
In 2009 Jonathan made a spin off of his leaf works in the form of wallpaper, which uses traditional motifs to disguise the explicit material used to make the leaves. Read more here.