Kent Artist Profile: Jonathan Hateley
Jonathan Hateley’s sculptures are, in a word, mesmerising. There is something absolutely magical about them and once you see them, you cannot draw your eyes away. insideKENT found out more about how he creates these incredible pieces, and what it is about Kent – and his life – that inspires them.
If you had to define your art, how would you describe what you do?
I create figurative sculptures with texture or bas-relief surface detail. These are hand finished and painted to accentuate the relief. All aspects of the natural world inspire me and have fundamentally influenced my current flow of work. My sculptures might use poses which bear comparison with elements of nature, how nature might affect the human body, or the detail might re-emphasise human emotions, energy or states.
How did you become an artist?
As a child, I would fill sketchbooks with drawings of cartoon characters that gradually progressed to plasticine models. In fact, my final degree show on a graphic design course was a series of three-dimensional illustrations made in plasticine. With my portfolio in hand, I moved from the West Midlands to London and gained work at a model-making company. Here, I worked on a scale version of the proscenium arch created for the show Phantom of the Opera. This was used to design all subsequent productions around the world. I spent four years working as a prop maker for the English National Opera before becoming self-employed and working as a sculptor and illustrator in TV, theatre, film and publishing. It was after many years in this commercial world that I felt the need to have the freedom to create my own work. I have now been exhibiting my sculpture for sixteen years.
What is the most unusual, daring, or interesting commission you’ve ever received?
I was asked by FINA to provide a piece to present to American Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps for his massive success and contribution to world swimming. The sculpture they selected featured a number of interlinked swimming female figures.
While I have enjoyed various mediums over the years including drawing, painting and sculpture, I have found the latter to be the one I feel offers me the most scope to say what I want to say. My only consideration in the past was the seeming restriction on colour, which generally meant traditional bronze patination shades of brown or verdigris. It was my missing the use of colour that persuaded me to introduce it to my sculptures.
How does Kent inspire your work?
I have made my home in Kent, and as an artist I have worked in barns on two farms in the county, seeing the changing seasons more closely than before. In 2010, I began a year-long project of creating a small sculpture a day based on aspects of nature. Each piece was assembled onto a larger form and the final sculpture titled 365. The reference for this was predominantly collected during long walks around Kent. Although this sculpture is quite different to my current work, it embedded in my mind the idea of looking to nature and adding its features to sculpted forms.
Do you have any artistic heroes?
I’ve had to write two theses during further education and I based these on the great painter J.M.W. Turner, whose work I love to this day. Same with the illustrator Arthur Rackham, who is known for his ethereal pen and ink paintings of children’s fairy tales. In sculpture, from the past I enjoy the work of Rodin and Giacometti and in the present, that of Philip Jackson and US sculptor Richard MacDonald.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have been concentrating on two sculptures concurrently that are based on sunrise and sunset. The female figures are covered in circles, with those on Sunrise getting larger as they go up and on Sunset larger as they go down. Sunrise is a standing figure taking in the morning with a stretch while Sunset is a crouching, reflective figure.
Where can we see your work?
The Linda Blackstone Gallery shows my work at the Affordable Art Fairs (AAF) nationally and internationally. The first AAF show for me in this country will be at Hampstead on 9th-12th May, and later at Battersea 17th-20th October. I aim to show at RHS Wisley again this year as part of the Surrey Sculpture Society annual event as well as The Savill Gardens. My professional art practice has been supported over the last five years by PURE Arts Group, with whom I will be exhibiting in Battle in October.