Jonathan Beaumont Thomas: Sign of the Times Portfolio
In conjunction with the exhibition, The 9th Art: Frames and Thought Bubbles, the ZMA is thrilled to present a portfolio of intaglio prints by artist Jonathan
Beaumont Thomas, titled Sign of the Times.
About the Portfolio: “When I imagined that on seeing his pictures I should get a clue to the understanding
of his strange character I was mistaken. They merely increased the astonishment with
which he filled me. I was more at sea than ever. The only thing that seemed clear
to me - and perhaps even this was fanciful - was that he was passionately striving
for liberation from some power that held him. But what the power was and what line
the liberation would take remained obscure. Each one of us is alone in the world.
He is shut in a tower of brass, and can communicate with his fellows only by signs,
and the signs have no common value, so that their sense is vague and uncertain.”
-W. Somerset Maughan, The Moon and Sixpence, 1919, pg.133.
No one has written more beautifully about the inscrutability of images and their possession
of people than W. Somerset Maughan. Even today, in the great ocean of digital images,
his words from a century ago speak to the vast and deepening uncertainty that lies
at the end of the swim.
I spend a great deal of time collecting and organizing pictures, images of all sorts,
searching for signs, for relationships, for indicators of value. I'm intrigued by
the intense specificity and simultaneous randomness of the whole enterprise. The best
description of my artwork is to say it is squeezed out of this process, one small
drop of juice from one large piece of fruit. I have long been interested in the role
of images in worship, conflict over idolatry, and the relationship between iconoclasm
and shifts in communicative media. These interests lay the groundwork for a deliberate
process of creating narratives that extricate themes embedded in the mass of images
that I both consciously and subconsciously collect.
The nine etchings that comprise the Sign of the Times portfolio are structurally divided into quadrants. That idea came from comics and
the goal of unfolding a story. Within each window I challenge myself to create a relationship
between elements that yields a type of small truth concerning the picture’s inhabitants,
and perhaps their relationship to the viewer. Working in intaglio, at least for me,
has always been such a battle of wills. It can be so uncompromising, scraping copper
with steel. But what a thrill to work and maneuver the texture of a metal plate just
enough to capture a creeping shadow against the wall, the cast of an oncoming storm
or the glow of a candle lit room. It can also take a long time. And what does it mean
to spend a long time making a picture of something so fleeting and inconsequential
as a chaff of wheat shifting in the wind?
-Jonathan Beaumont Thomas
Jonathan Beaumont Thomas,The Curtain, 8”x6” image, 14”x12” paper, intaglio, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.
Jonathan Beaumont Thomas is currently the Interim Associate Dean of Design and Media at the Maryland Insititute
College of Art, in Baltimore Maryland, where he was the Chair of the Printmaking Department
from 2010-2020. Previously, he taught at the University of Miami in Miami, FL and
Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana. Jonathan received his MFA from Southern
Illinois University Edwardsville and a BS in Biology from Wake Forest University.
He has shown both nationally and internationally, including exhibitions at Trudi Gallery
in Los Angeles, the Bas Fisher Invitational in Miami, Untitled in New York, and Carol
Jazzar in Miami. He was an Artist-in-Residence at Anchor Graphics in Chicago, IL and
the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, ND and was the recipient of the Florida Individual