artnet Asks: Illustrator and Painter John Bonner

Bonner revitalizes 20th century Ashcan realism on the streets of Boston.

John Bonner Photo: courtesy of http://www.johnbonner.com/

British-born artist John Bonner attended Central Saint Martin’s School of Art in London, and received his MFA from Syracuse University. He has lived and worked in Massachusetts since the 1980s. He paints in the Ashcan style—a painting style popularized in the US during the early 20th century, best known for works portraying daily life in New York City. Bonner has revitalized this style in his candid depictions of Bostonians commuting on the T and bustling through Copley Square and South Station, opaque gusts of humidity suspended in front of their mouths as they rush to get out of the brisk New England air. His large, realistic canvases bring the viewer’s eye to poetic moments in the everyday, even a city goer’s morning commute. In addition to painting, Bonner does the illustration for comic strip-style book reviews called Comic Crits. His paintings have been exhibited throughout New England, and one of his paintings was chosen for display in the Monserrat Embassy through the Art in Embassies program. What does Bonner do when he’s not painting the everyday? artnet News caught up with the artist to find out.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I never wanted to be an artist. You are whether you like it or not. Frankly, it’s easier in this society, to be something else. Art gets no respect, but then, I’ve come to feel that it should actually get less respect than it does.

John Bonner, Abbey Road on Portland 66 x 44 in. Photo: courtesy of the artist and McGowan Fine Art.

John Bonner, Abbey Road on Portland
Oil on canvas, 66 x 44 in.
Photo courtesy of the artist and McGowan Fine Art.

What inspires you?
As I mature, increasingly what inspires me is art I saw when I was not yet an adult.

John Bonner, Waiting in the Cold  Oil on panel 41 x 41 in. Photo: courtesy of the artist and McGowan Fine Arts.

John Bonner, Waiting in the Cold
Oil on panel, 41 x 41 in.
Photo courtesy of the artist and McGowan Fine Arts.

If you could own any work of modern or contemporary art, what would it be?
Probably an original Thunderbirds strip by Frank Bellamy.

John Bonner, Early Morning Departure  Oil on canvas 36 x 36 in.  Photo: courtesy of the artist and McGowan Fine Art.

John Bonner, Early Morning Departure
Oil on canvas, 36 x 36 in.
Photo courtesy of the artist and McGowan Fine Art.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m trying to start a series of pieces, largish, probably drawn. Something that requires me to simply draw from life.

When not making art, what do you like to do?
Cook. Yes, I like to cook.


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