Those who have seen Jon MacNair’s work might be surprised to learn that he is greatly inspired by popular children’s literature, fairytales, and Renaissance art. The Portland based artist is well known for his fantastical, quirky ink drawings, often labeled as “dark”, and we don’t mean his monochromatic palette. “Some of my most distinct memories as a kid were of looking at picture books and being entranced by the images,” he says. “Even though most of these books were for kids, there were some pretty dark undertones in the illustrations that stuck with me.” These eventually led to his current body of work which turns classically ominous imagery on its head.
Portland based artist Jon MacNair (covered here) didn’t actually enjoy sketching at first, but he kept at it and his daily drawings are what influenced his style today. Working mostly in ink, his monochromatic drawings of demons and other creatures derived from animals are decidedly mystical. Some of the themes running through his art’s veins include magic and rituals, man and beast, anxiety, journeys, isolation, night, and communication. Last night at Antler Gallery in Portland, he debuted a new series of drawings and shadowbox pieces, as well as an expansive floor to ceiling mural installation.
Jon MacNair opens windows into cryptic worlds with his monochromatic pen-and-ink drawings. His work has a decidedly vintage, if not medieval, feel. The artist renders elaborate depictions of self-created myths and legends, but rather than being grandiose, the tone of his work is self-aware and humorous. Demons and shamans mug for the viewer while performing rituals and spells. Some of his drawings show gratuitous, cartoon violence akin to that of heavy metal album art and skateboard graphics. MacNair has a solo show opening at Portland’s Antler Gallery this Thursday, August 28, titled “Age of Enigmas.” In addition to his own work, the exhibition will feature MacNair’s collaborations with five other artists he admires: Jennifer Parks, Trudy Creen, Mark Burt, Ian Anderson, and Michael Hsiung.