no purple paintings!

“Oh, this will become art?”

Berlin-Kreuzberg on a sunday. In front of his door I find Jon Campbell, a painter from New York City, that lives in Berlin since 2007.

After growing up in Germany, Jon moved to the US with his family where he studied arts in Manhatten.

JönnieJon works in his apartment. The room is split into three areas, kitchen on one side, living room on the other and in-between: atelier. Big pieces of painted paper are put on the wall. The work is not finished but already pleasing.

Barbed wire separates the yard from the outer space of a pizzeria. In the windows of the opposite building appear faces of people, who came to Berlin to experience life in a big city.

“Yeah, actually this was an exhibit and now it’s a bench cover. But it’s nice.”

I know what it feels like to arrive with big expectations and to hit reality. Not all of us will make it, whatever that means. Jon on the contrary had a pretty good start. Exhibiting work while still studying, later being supported by galleries in New York, Paris, Berlin and Italy and selling paintings as a young artist, might be things others can only dream of.

And others might be seduced to fulfill expectations, in order to keep things running, to persist on the market. This doesn’t seem to be Jons intention. He makes a very grounded impression on me the way he talks about his work and the whole way things work on the market out there.

I noticed a beautiful piece of fabric, black and white graphic pattern. (Later I would spill black tea over it.) “Yeah, actually this was an exhibit and now it’s a bench cover. But it’s nice.” Jon said with a smile.

“Black is boring, I’ll take the neon pink.”

Why paint? Maybe as a therapy, as a constant work with yourself and the material, to develop, try new things.

Recently Jon started working with paper rather than canvas. Parts of the painting can be covered, be taken away or attached.

“Black is boring, I’ll take the neon pink.” Jon started brushing water on a piece of paper and watched it become transparent. Then he added an abstract form in pink. He likes the process, to be lead by coincidence.

“It is the coincidence and the material that has a big part, not always the content of the painting”.

At university he did what he felt like, not minding the rules. One of them: “no purple paintings”. He didn’t mind and had a purple phase instead. While telling me this, Jon immediately grabs the purple paint tube.

Another no-go at university were paintings with narrative content. Jons pictures on the contrary are soulful portraits and sceneries, charged with emotions and stories.

Soon a triptychon in blue, pink, purple and gold was done, cut into stripes, waiting for someone else to create something new.