“ Thomas has taken his life in a full circle ... ” - COASTLINE PILOT, March 2004
Behind the lens or not, the picture of his life has developed well. With his first exhibition set to open at Peter Blake Gallery Saturday, Jonathan Thomas is enjoying the view.
Thomas, who has owned Ocean Avenue Brewing Company with his wife, Maria, for the past 10 years, has taken his life in a full circle.
He said the photography came before the brewery when he attended the Brooks Institute and studied the art in 1986.
He lived in Los Angeles in 1990 and worked a couple of years in the film industry.
“I moved after the riots to Italy with my wife and floated around,” Thomas said.
They made their way back to California and he said everything was just falling into place.
“The next thing we knew, we opened the brewery,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t really planned; it was one of those crazy things.”
Throughout the 10 years manning Ocean Avenue he said he was shooting here and there and experimenting with different techniques and methods.
“That’s when I fell upon a theme–very abstract,” Thomas said. “Photography is very literal.”
He takes photography and creates a different perspective, looking more at the form and color as art.
“Some people don’t think of photography as art,” Thomas said. “To catch a moment, create a feeling or a mood, there is a technique involved.”
His photographs often appear to be a painting or watercolor, but Thomas said he doesn’t use Photoshop or other computer tools to alter his work.
“I do all the manipulations all outside the computer.” Thomas said. “I create a negative or positive and then scan and print.”
He manipulates it through the way he shoots, processes and prints it.
“It goes through about four to five processes before it becomes the actual negative,” Thomas said.
The show consists of eight pieces and the subject varies he said, however they are all of people.
“It’s my first exhibition in a real gallery,” Thomas said. “I’m a little nervous—it comes and goes; I was excited when my name was put on the wall and getting everything framed—I was nervous.”
Once he saw his work framed he thought it looked great, transitioning him to a calmer place. Then someone came in and make a comment about his work and the excitement stirred again.
Thomas said the exhibit came to be by coincidence. Blake and Thomas had known each other through Blake’s previous work in the restaurant world when he was at Romeo Cucina.
Thomas thought he would consult Blake and get suggestions, as a friend, about his photography.
“I didn’t know if people would like it and he said ‘let’s do a show’,” Thomas said. “I never expected it, but I trust his opinion and he knew better than I did.”
They went through about 30 of his pieces and came up with what would be best for the exhibit.
Thomas said that what might be his favorite work might not be someone else’s.
“I’ve known him for years, I had no idea he was and artist,” Blake said. “It’s just beautiful work—I loved it from the second I saw it. It’s real creative.”
Blake said photography has become an important medium of contemporary artwork and said Thomas is on the cutting edge.
“Each piece is so different from another and evokes [different] emotions, sometimes scary, sometimes happy,” Thomas said. “It depends on the person, it’s unique in that.”
He thought it was interesting how individuals would react to the same piece and what emotion, thought or feeling they would attach to it. One example he cited was a picture he had taken of his daughter with bubbles washing over her face. Because of its abstract nature the viewer puts in one’s own thought to what it is. Thomas thought it was funny that someone thought it was scary.
“That’s what I was trying to do,” Thomas said. “I’m not trying to evoke emotion—I just want to make people think. There’s no deep meaning behind each photo.”
“It’s blurring the lines between photography and painting,” Blake said.
He said the viewer should expect a challenge to figure out exactly what they are.
“You have to get into it, he doesn’t five it on the surface,” Blake said. “Once they find it, they get it across the board. It urges the viewer to contemplate what exactly they are.”
Blake remarked about Thomas’ beautiful use of color and invited everyone to see the exhibit from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday at the artist reception.
Future plans for Thomas, he said, likely include continuing on his creative path and perhaps getting a show booked in Los Angeles. “I have other techniques I’m working on and would like to further those,” Thomas said.
Besides the brewery and art, Thomas does professional commercial photography; he shoots for builders and architects.
“It started out that the photography was for fun and the brewery was my work, now the brewery has become my fun life.”
Peter Blake gallery is at 329 N Coast Highway. Thomas’ show runs through March 25. For information, call the gallery at (949) 376-9994 or got to http://www.peterblakegallery.com.
- Suzie Harrison