It does not take an artistic expert to realise that London-based illustrator Jonathan Wolstenholme has a passion for all things literary. As witty as they are charming, his incredibly detailed watercolour paintings depict anthropomorphised books in various amusing situations, from smoking pipes and writing letters to slipping on banana peels.
In one work, a colourless, semi-transparent book holds a glass of wine as he floats above an exercise book with a pen – literally, a ‘ghost writer’. In another, wittily titled Crime Writer, a green Penguin book holds a pen/gun hybrid, loading it with ink cartridges like bullets and pointing it towards the page before him.
Created in the surrealist tradition, the individual aspects of Wolstenholme’s paintings are perfectly and realistically detailed – it is the ways in which these elements are combined that give them their humorously odd effect. Familiar, pop-culture images are subtly distorted; behind a pipe-smoking Penguin book, for example, vintage wallpaper features a pattern of the familiar penguin logo smoking a pipe.
There is an appealing sense of warm nostalgia evoked by Wolstenholme’s playful, slightly bizarre paintings. The artist looks back to a not-so distant age in which all sorts of mundane objects were a result of exquisite craftsmanship and learned labour, as the focus on human hands sprouting from the physical representation of knowledge – books – suggests.
Aside from his signature book paintings, Wolstenholme has also worked as an illustrator for an impressive selection of major global magazines and newspapers. To date, he has also held three one-man shows in London, and has exhibited at the Singer and Friedlander Exhibition on several occasions. He regularly exhibits with Portal and fellow Portal artists at major British art fairs.
Words by Grace Cain