When first approaching Jason Boyd Kinsella’s portraits, one is immediately struck by the artist’s distinctive visual language. His portraits are made up of various fragments or building blocks; geometric in form, these components are immediately indicative of three-dimensionality. As such, Kinsella points out that his artworks are often more influenced by sculpture than by painting. This interest in sculpture and three-dimensional form developed from a young age when Kinsella would admire the giant sculpture, Large Two Forms, by the British artist, Henry Moore. The work, once installed outside the Art Gallery of Ontario, comprises two undulating amorphic forms. Visitors to the gallery were allowed to interact with the piece and, as a child, Kinsella would climb through the bronze sculpture, experiencing it from all angles. The immersive and tactile elements of the work stayed with the artist who has experimented with augmented reality in his current exhibition, encouraging viewers to interact directly with his pieces. Aside from this, the artist reminiscences how the sculpture reminded him of a large dinosaur bone. Moore’s exploration of biomorphic qualities influenced Kinsella who seeks to draw out the same effects within his own pieces that suggest human form through heightened abstraction. In this sense, Kinsella greatly admires other modernist sculptors such as Ruth Duckworth, Barbara Hepworth and Jacques Lipchitz, stating that he finds it more satisfying to ‘feel’ an artwork rather than being compelled to understand it.
Henry Moore, Large Two Forms, 1966-1969. Bronze, Overall: 386 x 610 cm (Credit: http://sunnyvaletobaddeck.blogspot.com/2013/08/day-23-art-gallery-of-ontario.html)
Jason Boyd Kinsella, Judith, 2019, oil on canvas, 97 x 200 cm
As well as these proponents of modernist sculpture, Kinsella has perhaps been most significantly influenced by the twentieth-century icon, Pablo Picasso. He has always revered the Spanish artist’s fearless motivation and his attitude to life, admiring how he was able to carry his vision across multiple different mediums. In particular, Picasso’s role at the forefront of the Cubist movement remains of steadfast significance to Kinsella. These cubist works did away with the traditional understanding of artistic perspective, preferring to depict all angles of an object or sitter at once. Kinsella has aspired to achieve the same sense of compound perspective in his own works, encouraging viewers to think from multiple viewpoints and dimensions when studying his portraits.
Pablo Picasso, Woman in a Hat (Olga), 1935, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 cm (Credit: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/sep/30/pablo-people-picasso-national-portrait-gallery)
Kinsella has also long been drawn to the works of American artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, constantly fascinated by his idiosyncratic visual language. In particular, the artist singles out Basquiat’s Boy and Dog in Johnnypump (1982) as an artwork that has strongly influenced him. He remarks on the juxtaposition of imagery within Basquiat’s pieces and how these disparate visual references are collated to make new meaning. In a similar sense, inspired by the American Beat Generation writer, William S. Burroughs, Basquiat would bring together seemingly random passages of text, particularly within his SAMO writing. This method of compiling separate and ostensibly unrelated fragments resonates with Kinsella’s own work, which similarly unites various components to create complete psychological portraits.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Boy and Dog in Johnnypump, 1982, oil on canvas, 240 x 420.4 cm (Credit: https://www.artic.edu/highlights/4/new-on-view)
In essence, Kinsella’s influences are vast, eclectic and constantly evolving. From childhood, he took art classes at the Art Gallery of Ontario, learning about Old Master paintings and works by the Group of Seven, a collective of Canadian landscape painters active in the early twentieth century. In apparent contrast to this relatively traditional training, Kinsella was strongly influenced by the trends of the 1980s, including Punk Rock, Hip Hop, skateboarding culture and street art. He would spend hours absorbing the artworks and the vibrant skateboard graphics that featured on the album covers of his LP record collection. Blending these modern influences with an exposure to Old Master painting culminates in the raw materials of the artist’s current aesthetic, which merges traditional techniques with a hyper-contemporary edge. Similarly, Kinsella has been inspired by the minimalism of Scandinavian architecture. As such, he is instinctively inclined towards cleaner and more restrained compositions, stripped of embellishment or ornamentation.
The common thread that can be seen to tie all these influences together is their authenticity, stemming from distinct, unique and consistent visual languages. However, Kinsella’s inspirations are changing all the time. As the artist states, “Growth demands change, and I’m always looking for new inspirations in unexpected places.”
Don’t miss Jason Boyd Kinsella’s solo exhibition, Fragments. On view at Unit London until Monday 24th May.