The Cinematic Narrative Portraiture of Jonathan Viner

Jonathan Viner is an American painter based in Brooklyn, NY. Viner’s work drew me in from his contribution to ‘Lush Life’: Reverie at Roq La Rue and later in the 10th Anniversary Exhibition at Corey Helford Gallery (the wonderful Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Online Author, Miu Vermillion, covered this back in September 2016). His works primarily in oil and his influences emanate from his narrative portraiture. However, they are highly individualised works that pay homage to traditional craft and technique, rather than being bound by it. Notably, notes of Rembrandt, Vermer, Caravaggion, to the more contemporary Ingres, Degas, Manet and Sargent, can be seen in his approach to his art.

Jonathan Viner


With Viner’s art, there is normally an overall theme with a main centerpiece and a collection of smaller interlinking works.  Each of these possess the same exquisite scene composition and connective symbolism to show the narrative throughout and connect them to its whole. While some of connections to these themes can be ambiguous, Viner does not consciously choose to do so, stating ‘This is what comes out of me when I pick-up a brush’. While Viner hopes viewers are moved by and experience something special when looking at his art, he fully understands that a reaction is ultimately dependent on the onlooker’s connection to a particular piece.

What fascinates me the most is the fact that Jonathan Viner’s compositions are a cinematographer’s wet dream. Poignant and purposeful character placement mirror that of Nicolas Winding Refn set piece (Drive (2011), The Neon Demon (2016), which ooze layers of cool intrigue. His work broadly encompasses themes facing contemporary society: from violence, rapid change, alienation, to power and morality. Isolation has taken the form of geographic, as well as, technological isolation.

While technology all but breaks down these geographic boundaries to other communities and cultures, maybe the stigma surrounding our isolation runs deeper than the technology we use; maybe it’s the individual over group mentality all too common in slogans, media and culture. Alternatively, maybe technology has overloaded our choice of connection and we’ve grown more fickle as a consequence. Either way, Jonathan Viner’s themes continue to evoke healthy debate in these areas of social interaction. Take the isolated pop winter landscapes of Viner’s ‘Cold Snap’ collection for example (displayed at Sloan Fine Art); these oil works tease storytelling and utilise an iced palette backdrop to do so. Upon seeing the prone bobbled-hatted hunter, with his jacket wearing dogs, I’m taken away to a scene not too dissimilar from the Coen’s crime masterpiece, Fargo (1996); our prone hunter may be about to tragically injure an innocent bystander. This descends into a dark-humoured tale; an, ‘Oh geez’, acknowledgement the reality of the situation.




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