Jon Groom

Copyright by Jon Groom 2014  |   Imprint

Biography

Jon Groom was born in 1953 in Powys, Wales. After completing a high school education, where he formed an important relationship with his art teacher Martin Preece, Groom went to Cardiff College of Art to study sculpture, later to switch to painting. Terry Setch, Michael Crowther, and Paul Beauchamp helped him to formulate his own visual language (see Room Painting, 1975). During a year at Sheffield Polytechnic he met his future friend Mark Harrington.

In 1976 Groom was accepted into the postgraduate department of Chelsea School of Art, London where he studied under the guidance of Prof. Ian Stephenson. Groom came into contact with many practicing artists of the time, the most notable meeting being with Sean Scully, who not only proved to be an influential teacher but an enduring friend.

Groom was awarded a fellowship in painting at Gloucestershire College of Art in 1977. Soon after the year ended he departed for New York on a Boise Travel Scholarship from University College London. There he received a commission to make a wallpainting for a law office in New Jersey which he titled New-arc-New Jersey. This was to be Groom's first wallpainting. At this time he was extremely interested in getting painting away from the canvas and welcomed the opportunity to experiment directly on the wall.

Before leaving, however, he exhibited a group of paintings at Riverside Studios, London, his first one-man exhibition. Groom counts seeing the Rothko paintings newly installed at the Tate Gallery in London at this time as marking a key reference point and certainly evoking an emotional response that was new in contemporary art.

New York in 1978 was a place of great transition. Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko had died eight years before, abstract expressionism was waning and Minimalism along with reductive painting seemed to offer a new direction. Groom picked up on the new energy that was emerging and which affirmed many of his artistic beliefs.

Upon his return to London in 1979 he exhibited his Vertical Wall-Bound Arcs, 1978-79 a series of eight acrylic on canvas works at the newly opened Nicola Jacobs Gallery, which was to be Groom's London dealer until 1990. The same year Groom was chosen as the youngest member of a Council of Great Britain touring exhibition called "The British Art Show" curated by Financial Times art critic, William Packer.

By the time Groom returned to London in 1979 he had established a studio at New Crane Wharf with Trevor Sutton and Sheila Cluett among others. To pay the rent Groom worked as a carpenter at Riverside Studios then under the direction of both Peter Gill and David Gothard. This experience proved inspiring, as he found himself working with, among others, Samuel Beckett, Geraldine Chaplin, Rosemary Butcher, Tricia Brown, and Bruce McLean. It was here at Riverside that he met Steven Scott, then technical director of the theatre. In 1980 Groom was chosen to show for the first time in New York at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery in Eight New British Artists. At the end of this year he was awarded a Greater London Arts Award to enable more studio time. He also began his career as a lecturer in painting, teaching for periods at Cardiff College of Art, Hornsey College of Art, St. Martin's in London, and Portsmouth Polytechnic.

In 1981 during his last year at Riverside Groom teamed up with the choreographer Rosemary Butcher to develop a dance piece entitled Shell, Forcefields, and Spaces. Working on the set Groom established a painted floor area on which stood transparent vertical screens, later making the wallpainting in five parts entitled Salutation. To prepare for this Groom adapted a pillar in his studio at New Crane Wharf. In 1982 Groom's work was chosen for the Annual Group Exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London. In the same year new paintings were shown at The Welsh Arts Council Gallery, Cardiff along with a new wallpainting Fish Got to Swim, Bird Got to Fly, a title influenced by the Irish writer Flan O'Brien.

The paintings of this period originated from a sculptural language in which a drawn arc was placed within the painted space of a shaped form, the "arc" setting up a tension between itself and the irregularity of the shaped canvas. Groom was searching for a way to make painting from architecture, color, and space in their most reduced forms. In 1983 Groom worked again with the Rosemary Butcher Dance Company on Five Sided Figure, a color and light installation that took the work well away from the canvas. This theatre work premiered at Riverside Studios and went on the road to Rome where it was preformed in Theatro Spazio Zero. That year concluded with his first museum show, a series of paintings after which the exhibition was entitled Calling, Clearing, Soprano at Rochdale Art Gallery, Rochdale. During these years Groom worked in London at the Berry Street Studios and then in Hoxton Square.

In 1985 Groom's first one-man show in New York opened at the Ruth Siegel Gallery. Many of the paintings had been executed in New York during the summer of that year. Many of the pastels had been done during an extended period of work in France in the Pyrenees. In the same year Groom's work was included in the exhibition The Discovery of the Lake District at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The geometry used in the paintings seemed to be softened due to many landscape experiences. The earth, the roots, the colors informed the work.

Traveling to Milan via Munich Groom delivered paintings to two galleries that would have importance over the next period. In Munich he began working with the Wassermann Gallery and in Milan with Lorenzelli Arte. By 1986 Groom had moved to Italy in order to study Renaissance painting. Renting an eighteenth-century farmhouse in Umbria he painted the series which would be shown at the Wassermann Gallery in Munich in 1987 called Flight, Storm, and Reformation and the exhibition in Milan in 1988, Panel Paintings and Paintings on Copper.

After one year in Um-bria Groom moved to take up residence at Villa Waldberta in Feldafing near Munich, Germany as a guest of the Munich Kulturreferat. Meanwhile in England Groom was included in the important survey exhibition The Presence of Painting: Aspects of British Abstraction 1958-1988 that opened at the Mappin Art Gallery in Sheffield and then toured museums in the British Isles. After the residency in Feldafing Groom moved to Munich, taking over an old framing workshop in the middle of the city. There he made the paintings for the Nicola Jacobs exhibition in London in 1988.

Since 1978 Groom visited New York each year to see exhibitions and maintain contacts with his circle of friends there. Groom found a loft on Bond Street in Soho and commenced nine months of painting. He continued this program of spending three months in Munich and nine months in New York until 1990. Working in New York gave him a motivating impulse and increased his understanding of contemporary art. The fact that painting was taken so seriously at this time gave Groom added confidence. The work of Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, and Sean Scully continued to inspire his output. He visited Mexico and traveled extensively through the country, picking up much historical material that helped to inform his work of this time. In New York he was included in various group exhibitions and met Pamela Auchincloss who invited him to do a one-man exhibition, eventually exhibiting The Assumption Paintings - which were made in New York during the 1989/90 stay - at the gallery in 1991.

In 1990, Groom was invited to Lincoln, England, to participate in an exhibition The Journey: A Search for the Role of Contemporary Art in Religious and Spiritual Life. This involved living in the precincts of Lincoln Cathedral and working on Evidence-Lincoln Cathedral, the first of The Evidence Paintings, which would become a project spanning the next five years. Evidence-Lincoln Cathedral was a site-specific work consisting of five copper panels made to fit into the baroque cornices below the east window.

The mirror-like polished copper reflected the whole cathedral and the rectangles within floated in this reflection.

Meanwhile back in the studio in Munich Groom continued and developed the series. The prints that Groom had made at the Garner Tullis Print Studio in Santa Barbara, California back in 1989 would prove to be the sounding board for many of the Evidence Paintings. The resulting 77 monotypes enabled a thorough investigation of the form and its "proportion related to color" and opened a rich seam of possibilities. This research and work in progress would culminate in The Evidence Paintings exhibition at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich in 1994. Groom exhibited alongside the paintings the results of a print project: the collaboration between print publisher Gernot von Pape, Thomas Siebening, and Karl Imhof, both master printers. Between Light and Dark, ten aquatints, was completed first, followed by Man and the Seashell, a book of 21 lithographs. The year ended in Reutlingen at the Stiftung für konkrete Kunst. Working with Manfred Wandel and Gabriele Kubler Groom presented the Arena Wallpaintings, a fresco on four walls.

In 1995 Groom completed another large-scale wallpainting commissioned by Bayernwerke AG (now E.ON), a painting using powdered copper mixed in an acrylic base and applied with a spatula over the surface of a 25-metre wall. Groom had moved by this time to a new studio at the Prater Insel in Munich. A strong impulse brought Groom back to Mexico where he rented Larry Rivers' studio in Zihuata Nejo. He found local metalworkers who produced panels made of galvanized steel on which he painted, producing a series of oil paintings over a period of two months.

In 1997 Groom returned to Mexico as artist-in-residence at the Luis Barragàn Museum. Working in one of Barragàn's houses he completed two series of work, one on steel and the other on card, which were exhibited in specific locations throughout the house and showing spaces.

The "card-works" consist of many small cards placed together and attached directly to the wall, bridging the gap between wallpainting and painting on canvas. This method of working was fundamental for realizing the multiple watercolors, exhibited first in 2003, the origins of which were inspired by the architecture of the Mayan and the Aztec civilizations seen in Mexico. The work of Luis Barragàn entered the artist's creative soul as though two friends had met out of time. The insistence upon color becoming object and vice versa made a deep impact on Groom. The residency was important not only for the Barragàn connection but specifically for intensifying Groom's relationship with Mexico. The exhibition was a soulful homage.

Groom returned to Munich to work on a wallpainting for the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte. Along with his two colleagues Andreas Horlitz and Steven Scott, Groom produced work to integrate and expand the central hall in which the plaster casts of Greek sculptures are housed. The space became a laboratory for the three artists.

Groom worked again with Andreas Horlitz when the two were invited to work at the headquarters of Uniplan International. He developed another room painting that occupied two opposite walls connected by a ceiling entitled Axis Wallpainting in 1997.

In 1998 Groom moved out of the city to a studio in a restored dairy and there began work on a series of paintings that would later be called Cycles of the Day. He visited Australia, New York, and Los Angeles, returning to Europe to rent a small studio in Liguria, Italy. After visiting a doctor in Los Angeles who introduced Groom to the writings of J. Krishnamurti he immersed himself in this philosophy, which proved to be the beginning of a serious interest in Eastern spirituality. Groom began the practice of yoga and the study of Tantra. The time at the Boschhof dairy was productive, and he completed 200 paintings over a three-year period.

Groom moved back to Munich in 2002 after a prolonged stay in Copenhagen, where he worked with his friend, the "light artist" Steven Scott, continuously discussing light and space - the limited and the unlimited nature of both. While there he started to experiment with watercolor.

Groom began exhibiting with Galerie Paal, Munich in 1999. During this time he also worked in a studio in Deixlfurt, a farm near Munich. Here Groom persevered with watercolor and during a year of reclusion began to feel more confident with the medium. He hoped that the experience would lead to a new energy that could push the paintings in a new direction, to upset the "known formula" and to challenge all that he had achieved in painting on canvas.

In 2003 Groom was invited to the Neuer Kunstverein in Aschaffenburg. In an exhibition entitles Die Achtsamkeit des Augenblicks five artists were requested to show work of an experimental nature. He made the Face of the Buddha, his first large-scale work on paper. This consisted of 216 parts painted with watercolor on hand-made paper affixed directly to the wall. At the opening of this exhibition Groom was introduced to Ursula König of König Galerie, Hanau/Frankfurt and later was invited to join the gallery (first exhibition there in 2004).

In recent years he has completed numerous multiple-paper watercolors and shown alongside two main themes, Cycles of the Day of 2000 - 2006 and Between the Light of 2002 - 2006. These have not previously been exhibited as a group; they form the main body of the exhibition at the Museum Ludwig, Koblenz.

Watercolors can be made without much baggage and for Groom this has meant a great flexibility that has enabled him to make many paintings on journeys over the last few years, most notably on three recent trips to India. The watercolors have had the effect of opening up his work on canvas as the artist has worked in parallel in both media.

In 2003 Groom was offered the wing of a castle in Lower Bavaria at Mariakirchen, Arnstorf. The place itself has inspired many works, the multiple-paper watercolors and paintings, especially a group of works called The Eight Seasons that was made in the studio there. During this time Groom also worked in a studio in Hanau/Frankfurt, where many large-scale paintings were completed, including the two paintings for Hanau Congress Centre and the large entrance paintings for the Degussa Bank. But his main place of work during the last two years has been the studio at Ismaninger Strasse in Munich. In 2006 Groom married Dorna Hekmat in India.