Review Me: Jon Oslo: Understanding Life
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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Jon Oslo: Understanding Life

Jon, we are so grateful that you accept our invitation to have an interview with you. Tell us about your artistic background story and if there was a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as a visual artist?

For the most part, I’m self-taught. I took a few photography classes at the local junior college after receiving my bachelor’s degree since, at the time, that was the only way for me to have consistent access to a darkroom. It was here where I had my moment of realization because the more I enlarged the images from my negatives, the more I realized that I was literally bringing thoughts from my mind into existence. Which for me, is one of the closest things to magic.

That's exactly right. When the negative is turned into a photograph in a dark room, it is as if all the recorded ideas, mindsets, and emotions are coming true. Was there ever a moment of doubt to question your art career entirely?

There were multiple times, and I’d narrow it down to the hardest time: the beginning after making that decision to have an “art career”. Because of the oversaturation of platforms (digital and physical) to present art and the ease to start in almost any medium, it’s difficult to really know which avenue to take. “Do I go the commercial route? But how much of my creative freedom do I give up? Should I pay to have my work reviewed? How do I know this will really help?” As you can see, it’s easy to get lost in a rabbit hole of questions.

Yes, and finding answers to all these questions is not an easy task. What is your daily routine when working in your studio?

Because my photographs are mostly candid, my studio is more or less wherever I can be completely myself for at least a moment. During those moments, I examine what’s in front of me and if it doesn’t interest me, I keep wandering - by foot or in my head.

We are willing to know so many things about a professional photographer’s work process. So, take us through your process of making your artworks. How do you move from an idea to an artwork? Where does an artwork begin for you?

The process is more or less the same as my daily routine. The artwork typically begins when there’s a pattern or obscure detail I notice. Because I’m mostly taking candid photographs of others, I’m thinking about how the surroundings compliment and how that changes if the subject(s) are interacting with it. Technically, the artwork is done after the shutter is released and since I’m shooting on film, I won’t know what exactly I created until later. So each time I advance the film, I start the process over.

According to what you say, you want to show that each image provides a space for self-reflection and a moment to discuss stressful topics and encourage improvement. So, is there a central concept connecting all your works together or each series or artwork is unique?

No, each project is its own, but I would say the way I go about framing can be similar. Even with that said, it’s pretty easy to tell the projects apart since each has its own distinct subject matter.

Some artists prefer to occupy the viewer’s mind with the hidden message in the artwork, while others present some descriptions to make the message more understandable. Would you like to give a particular interpretation of your work to your viewers or you prefer to leave the whole interpretation to your audience?

“There are as many opinions as people.” Interpretation should be left for the viewer. I don’t mind providing suggestions in an artist statement or where inspiration comes from, but one’s work, like one’s actions, should be able to speak louder than one’s words.

Many things can inspire photographers before clicking the shutter. How do you seek and use inspiration for your works?

Much of my inspiration comes from cinematography and animation. Because they’re able to include all types of other art mediums (at the same time, or separately) to express an infinite number of thoughts and understandings, there’s plenty of ways to learn and explore different avenues. A great example is from J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield: when reaching the evacuation zone, the camera pans over to the two main characters that are spotlighted by a large floodlight in the distance. Although brief, the displays of their silhouettes embracing was an excellent way to ease the tension and enter the final act.

What about your subjects? How do you select your artworks subjects? Where they come from?

If there’s a pattern or detail I’m interested in or a moment that triggers thoughts of isolation, meaninglessness, death, or freedom in front of me, it’s my subject - as long as I can get close enough, haha!

Oh yes! The issue of approaching the subject in specific times and particular situations is a big deal by itself. Is there an artwork or series that you would like to be remembered for? And if yes, what is it?

These images are part of an ongoing series, four givens, which reflect my understanding of the world. I’d want this presentation of Dr. Yalom’s statement of these eventual experiences to spark self-reflection and discussion. One’s experience of isolation could be another’s experience of freedom, and it’s important to have this kind of understanding about one another.

My next question is definitely our readers’ question as they are interested in your candid shots. Any upcoming works or future projects that you would like to share with our readers?

I decided to present four givens as a series of artist books earlier this year, and I’m looking to have volume 2 out before the end of the year. As long as I can take and print pictures, I plan to continue creating additional volumes.

Now, let’s talk about your influences, Jon. What are your art influences? Who are your favorite contemporary or historical artists and why?

RenĂ© Magritte’s work is like a pencil sharpener for my mind. It’s easy to get lost in thought with his paintings because the presentation of familiar items ground many of his paintings in a context that’s common but causes questions because of their placement or displacement. Additionally, his work is presented in a conventional manner, not dependent on a certain expressionistic style or color scheme, and is still able to elicit a number of reactions and responses. For me, they’re a reminder to keep exploring.

And, if you could meet one of your ideal artists from the past, who would it be and what will you ask about?

Easily RenĂ© Magritte. If given that chance, I’d just want to have a casual conversation where we talk about our favorite foods and drinks, what superpower we’d want to have, places we’d want to visit, preferred time of the year, etc. I’d see it as a waste of time if all we talked about was art.

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