By the time he was 20, Jonny Niesche was living in New York playing experimental music, and in hardcore rock bands. ‘That lasted a decade,’ he recalls. ‘I came back to Australia in 2001 and fell completely in love with art.’
He studied a BA of Visual Arts at Sydney University in 2007, followed by a Master of Visual Arts in 2013. In-between, Jonny took the Heimo Zobernig Masters class at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts, and has since gone on to hold solo exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne, as well as Vienna and London more recently.
For Jonny, the path to developing his distinctive painting style wasn’t entirely straight-forward. For a long time the artist grappled with what it was that he really wanted to create. ‘I thought and thought… until one day I moved while looking at a glitter painting I had been playing with in the studio,’ Jonny explains. ‘Dependent on the incidence of light in the room and where I stood, the glitter was responding differently – It was this triangle of communication that stirred my interest. It was of a performative quality.’
From then on he set a signature, a criteria, for his work. ‘It got me thinking: “How can I get beyond the flat plane of a painting and make it more performative and ever-changing, to renew the experience every time one looks at it”,’ details the 46-year-old. ‘I concluded, if a painting doesn’t do that, it is not mine.’
Jonny uses transparent fabrics, with acrylic mirror, steel, brass and other materials in ways that challenge the perception of the viewer. His significant influences include David Bowie – ‘his words, melodies, glam posturing, manipulations of various styles and his complete conviction to the outcome of his ideas’ – and memories of childhood trips to the David Jones cosmetics department with his mother! ‘To me, this was an all-encompassing experience of incredible colour palettes of eyeshadows, the smell of perfumes and all the seductive and reflective smoky mirrored surfaces of the late 1970s.’
The artist’s latest body of work, Virtual Vibration will be projected onto the heritage-listed façade of the Museum of Contemporary Art for Vivid Sydney. This piece takes its title from ‘total vibration’: the optimum outcome of vibration of colour and experience between the viewer and the artwork, which was coined by the ZERO artists in 1950s Germany.
Focussing on how music, pace, and image affect the way we experience, through ‘Virtual Vibration’ the MCA collection artist has sought to provide some respite from the frenetic pace of the city. This installation is produced with Sydney-based Animation company Spinifex Group, and composer/electronic producer Mark Pritchard, whose album, Under the Sun, Jonny had spinning on repeat as he developed the artwork concept, and felt captured its exact mood and pace. ‘I wrote an embarrassing fan email to Mark, whom I had never met, and we kicked off from there,’ Jonny tells. ‘It has become a great collaboration and friendship.’
While Virtual Vibration will certainly adhere to the core principles of Jonny’s practice, the projection is an incredible increase in scale for the artist. ‘When literally anything you can think up can be done, it’s very exciting. It opens up a whole new area of thought and possibilities!’ he enthuses. You can see it for yourself in Sydney from this Friday (IRL, or wherever you get your digital re-projections!).
Virtual Vibration by Jonny Niesche
As part of Vivid Sydney festival
May 25th to June 16th
140 George Street
The Rocks, New South Wales