PRESSING PEOPLE: Jonathan Green
With thick black rimmed glasses, ink stained hands and a sometimes indecipherable Newfoundland accent, UAA’s newest Artist in Residence is a delightfully memorable character. At only 33 years old, the printmaker has amassed an impressive resume which includes 18 exhibitions and four stints as an Artist in Residence. Not to mention his combined Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts degrees.
“Honestly, I knew nothing about printmaking until I went to art school. Up until then, I was always a drawer. Then I met this really inspiring art professor who thought I was pretty good at drawing and suggested that I should try etching,” explained Green who quickly found his passion for the medium. “I liked that printmaking is engaging with kind of outdated machinery - outdated technology - but somehow making it relevant again. Then there is the alchemy of using the harsh chemicals and soft papers. It’s kind of sensual but grubby at the same time. You know, it has this dirty sort of ‘roll up your sleeves and make something’ feel to it.”
Although Green’s preferred printmaking technique requires hours of painstakingly scraping fine lines into copper plates, he feels that it’s the only way to get the ‘badass’ results he strives for.
“Etching came out in the 1400s and even though it’s this outdated process it has such a beautiful quality to it. The fine lines, the super-rich blacks you can get and the way the ink sinks into the paper is just something you can’t find anywhere else,” said Green whose larger prints take weeks to etch and hours to print.
“I’m a pretty patient guy so I don’t mind the labor-intensive process. Plus, I usually know what the outcome is going to be and it’s worth waiting for. The process is kind of meditative, kind of Zen. But like I’m no Buddha, I’m not staring at my navel all day. Like you’re never going to find me going ‘namaste’,” laughed Green.
Printmaking isn’t the only time Green has found his patience to be a virtue. When he met his wife Dr. Riva Symko while working as a print lab technician, he knew he was going to have to have a slow burning approach to winning her heart.
“Riva was kind of the reason I pursued my MFA. She was leaving to go back to Alberta, so I thought I would follow her and just get my MFA. I wouldn’t leave her alone,” laughed Green.
Green’s persistence has been UAA’s gain as the university procured not only an Artist in Residence, but also an Art Historian when the duo moved in Anchorage in August.
“After my MFA I did an Artist in Residence program where I canoed down the Yukon River and it kind of gave me a glimpse of what it would be like to live in the north. Like I always had this desire to live up in the north and make artwork about icebergs and the landscapes. After that residency [my wife and I] both started looking for jobs up north and when we found an opportunity for my wife to teach at UAA, we went for it,” explained Green.
“I think the people that are attracted to the north are just more self-reliant, independent people. They are a little weird – some of them – but they are more free and kind of do what they want. Riva and I really like it here. I guess you could say we drank the northern ‘Kool-Aid’ on our drive up here,” Green chuckled.
Green’s work is currently on display at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art through January. To see more of his work, visit his website at www.jonathansgreen.com.