Johnathan Ball Neo Futuristic Abstract Expressionist Artist Toronto Canada

February 15, 2018 by Laura Gomez


Artist lnterview:

Name: Johnathan Ball
Age: 34
Birthday: Dec. 17, 1983
College: York University, B.F.A. Honors

Colour: Magenta
Books: The Day after Roswell, Slaughterhouse-Five, Diary.
Movie: The Good the Bad and the Ugly, The Matrix, Antichrist – Lars von Trier.
Food: Bone in rib eye medium rare.
Quote: “God somewhat overestimated himself when he created man” –Oscar Wilde

For how long have you been in art? How did you start?
I’ve always been making things and drawing since I was young, but I never called it art. I didn’t call it anything, it’s just what I did. Some kids liked sports or wrestling, I liked making things. My mother has a picture I drew of a ship when I was 3 or so, I like to think it started there. The urge to become an artist started when I was old enough to understand what art was, or rather when I understood what an artist did. It was very intuitive because it was what I did, I already was good at making and drawing things I imagined, and only wanted to get better. To my eye artists, or painters specifically were the best at making, and I wanted to do that.

How would you define yourself as an artist?
I’m a neo futuristic abstract expressionist.

Would you tell us some things about yourself? Please include a few little known facts about you as well.

I have been a photographer for about as long as I have been a painter; they have always influenced each other in my practice. The urge to be photorealistic in my work isn’t there as much anymore. Being a photographer helps with that, it takes the pressure off getting everything right and allows you to concentrate on the feel. I have always been a fan of science fiction. I think if I was smart enough I might have rather been an engineer. Sometimes I’ll have Star Trek or classic sci-fi movies on in the background while I work. I’m optimistic about the future, and about humanity.

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration comes sporadically. I never know when it’s going to hit me, or where its going to come from. I find staying active always helps, I almost always get new ideas going for a run. Meeting new people and being an active photographer, shooting nature, shooting people especially portraits helps too. I find faces and people to be the most interesting. They are inspirational in two ways. The way our minds read faces is fascinating we do it completely unconsciously. We put the pattern of the face together and understand the individual instantly. We see their age, sex, kindness, anger, all in an instant. They also house the person; they are exposed continuously, bravely facing the world and confronting others.
Everything about portraits interests me and inspires.

What are you trying to communicate with your art?

I don’t think I want to say one thing with my work. I like to think of my work as an exploration and a companion to my journey through life. At heart I’m an abstract expressionist, which means I’m constantly reactive to my surroundings both mental and physical. I express my wants and desires through the paint, often shaping brushstrokes to form image. I always like how Picasso put it: “You must start with an idea, but it should be a vague one.” That’s really the best explanation of my work, the best explanation of how to make art really. I start with a vague idea about something, usually based on a photograph or image and see what happens.

What art do you most identify with?
This is a tough question. Growing up as a young artist it was always Salvador Dali. His brash uncompromising vision was so alluring, and as a young painter his skill and persona were always something I wanted to emulate. I enjoy contemporary artists, like Shepard Fairey, David Altmejd and Matthew Barney, specifically Matthew Barney. I always look at his work in wonder, like I can’t believe someone could create something like that. I don’t really identify with a specific artist. I’m a working artist, and any artist that’s working toda is like me and I’m like them. We are explorers reacting and creating the journey.

Why do you do … what you do?
There is simply nothing better.



What does “being creative” mean to you?
Being creative to me, is problem solving for fun. Taking a bunch of physical objects, in my case paint, and putting them together in an interesting way based on your past experience with them, and trying new things. We call it creative when it surprises others. Creativity to me is the statement “Wow, I didn’t know someone could do that”.

Any shows, galleries, or publications where our readers can find your work?
My work is currently represented by Liss Gallery in Toronto, Canada. I show often, and I’ll be having a solo show there on July 6 th 2018 as well as launching a book of my work up to now. There is also the gallery’s website and my own website: and

How do you cultivate a collector base?
Like all good things it takes work and patience I’m very fortunate to have found a nurturing community of collectors at a young age. Making art is hard. You spend most of your time doing it, and when you’re not creating more often than not you think about creating and what to make next. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for the back end; mounting shows, emailing people, applying for competitions and grants. Which is a full time job in itself. It’s so important to stay in contact with any and everyone who has ever purchased your work, even if it’s only one or two people. You would be amazed how fast one or two can turn into three then four then eight then sixteen. You must have shows, and get your work seen at all costs. It’s almost as hard as making the work, but all artists have to learn this. You will not get into a gallery these days if you don’t have a well nurtured following. They are your base your foundation to keep building. That’s how I started, but eventually getting into a great gallery helps take some of that stress off. I’m still not done… not sure if you’re ever done. If you don’t enjoy the chase find someone who does and pay them.

Which is your most cherished piece?
I have pieces that I really enjoy but I’m not a collector of my own work. I paint them and let them go. They don’t act as testaments to my greatness, they’re beautiful objects to be collected, that represent a period in time. It’s funny but the majority of the work that’s in my possession is work I was never really happy with. The really good stuff always sells,
it’s funny how that works. The work that I have of mine I don’t really like, which in a way is good because it keeps me motivated. I don’t want to be remembered for those works I see, so in a way it drives me to keep creating better work.

If you had an exclusive collective exhibition with other artist’s work, who would you choose?
If I could have an exhibition with a group of artists alive today it would be Os Gemeos,Retna, Matthew Barney, Peter Doig, and Maurizio Cattelan just for fun.

What do you see as the strengths of your pieces, visually or conceptually?
I think the strength of my work is the combination of visually identifiable imagery and expressionistic lines.Wild chaotic paint formed around an image. It’s almost an allegory for how we build around nature. We create these very orderly forms over and around what is essentially chaos. I think you have to take yourself seriously, in the sense that the work is real and not just for fun. You must never take yourself to seriously and you have to have fun when you work, if it’s not fun I don’t think its any good. Art is life and life is fun.

What aspect of your work do you pay particular attention to?
I pay a lot of attention to the way the paint interacts with the image. How it falls how it relates to colors around it, does it add or subtract to the piece, all these thoughts are contribute to the final work. Before a piece is “finished” I take a step back and look at it for a good long while, then go away. I leave it there, almost letting it breath on the easel of a few days, and then if when I come back to it after having not looked at it, I still like it, I sign it and it’s finished.

What Role does the artist have in society?
That’s a funny question, because there’s the role artists play in society and the role artists want to play in society. In a perfect world artists would be consulted on everything. If there was something happening or being done or being made, an experienced artist should weigh in. Of course this is not the case. I find in my life there is never enough art. Any society that doesn’t utilize the strength and diverse perspectives of its population losses. People don’t go to Disneyland for the cardio they go to dream.

What is your most treasured memory?
There really isn’t quite anything like having a successful opening night. I remember my first with a body of work I really bled for. It was called Analogue, it was a series of paintings about women, and it combined both digitally created patterns and analog forms. Opening night was spectacular, I painted a live model. It was well attended, well received and I sold a whole bunch of work when I was 26 years old. Great memory.

What for you is the most enjoyable part of your art?
I love all aspects, but the best is the process I would say. Seeing the final product is pretty good too.

What famous artists have influenced you, and how?
It would be a toss up between Dali and Pollock. As a young artist you can’t help but respect their boldness. They are both brave and uncompromising in different ways. I respect the commitment to the work, the control and the singular vision. It’s important for art to be pure in the sense that critics or contemporaries do not change it. The strongest most influential art to me comes from that fierce resilience, the courage to follow your own vision no matter the consequences.

What other interests do you have outside of art?
I’m obsessed with UFO sightings and abduction experiences. I don’t take it too seriously. It’s fun to think about, but there’s some crazy things that people claim to have seen and sometimes it looks like they’re telling the truth. I like thinking about it, it makes me feel humble. It’s also very challenging to accept, for me and for most. I guess that’s why I like researching them. I like feeling like there’s so much more to know.

Some short questions now:

more Colours: Black and White, under rated but powerful.

Textures: Scales, soft snow on your fingertips, the warm skin of someone you love.

Define your art: Open to interpretation.

Describe your style: Define yourself
;… Neo Futuristic Abstract Expressionism. I look forward positively (Futurism), I’m a contemporary painter (Neo), and I’m very expressive in my art practice (Abstract Expressionist). Neo-expressionism is a style of late modernist or early- postmodern painting and sculpture that emerged in the late 1970s.
Neo-expressionists were sometimes called Transavantgarde. Basquiat would be a good example.

Prizes: Ontario Arts Council Emerging Artist Award 2009

Art Fairs: Architectural Digest Show, Manhattan New York 2014

Cities: I love New York, Brooklyn and Williamsburg. And of course home is Toronto.

Travels: I plan to go everywhere I can.

Music: Hip hop old and some new, old Trip hop, Bowie, the Beatles, NIN, Stevie, and Motown, usually in that order.

Cars: Yes have one.

Drones: No Drone.

Mobile App: Honestly I really like 9gag.

You seem to be very aware of the history of works. Where do you see films, photo exhibitions, art performances today?
That’s a tough one; the Internet has really put art in our hands more than ever before. We can surround ourselves with a certain perspective in a way that was never possible before. It’s funny when you look back and people were against selling out. “Don’t let them win, man,” they would say about “the man” and the advertisers. I don’t think we have a chance anymore. It’s a blind machine showing us exactly what we want to see when we want to see it. I don’t think it’s bad, or porously malicious but I’m not sure its good either.
Technology after all is a tool like a hammer; it can either build or smash. If we choose to do good with it than that’s great and the world will be better for it. I think the negative is that we take everything for granted. In a world of 7.6 billion people there is just more stuff than there has ever been before. Artwork is a thing, artist are producers.
I am hopeful, because there will always be a need for art. There has always been a need for it, we are a visual species. What we see not only affects society, culture and technology; it is society culture and technology. Art is a conversation. I think we will continue making art forever it will change in subtle ways but will always be there.

How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art?
When I was growing up we moved a lot, in different areas around Toronto I noticed art wasn’t weighted the same. Some areas appreciate it, others don’t see its merit, or more specifically don’t see its value in terms of monetary gain. Living in areas like that hurt, it affects you deeply. I think not being valued affects everyone in different detrimental ways. If I couldn’t create art, I think I would create art about the fact that I wasn’t aloud to secretly. I was always inspired by prisoners in concentration camps that would paint under fear of death. I’d like to think that would be me.

What do you think about the art community and market?
I don’t think there is “one” art market. I think a lot of artists make this mistake and think they can only be successful if they’re in this one gallery they have identified in particular. The art world is full of people, collectors, characters, and support councils. It’s hard to navigate but its there, and I think that’s what’s so important.

Should art be funded? Why?
Art is a label. Everyone makes art in some way, so we all essentially fund an art making practice of some kind in some way or another. Publicly funded art is so important for a healthy and beautiful world. Controversial yes, but no one could imagine the world without publicly funded art projects, and sculptures. What would Paris look like without the Eiffel tower, New York without the Statue of Liberty, Chicago without Anish Kapoor’s “bean”. Art can create icons, brands and industries. Public support helps and nurtures this all.

Which of your projects has given you the most satisfaction?
I enjoyed installing this community mural project in my neighborhood last year.

Who are the writer’s you admire the most? I really like Chuck Palahniuk

What about architects and designers? Always liked Frank Gehry

What else are you working on at the moment? Next projects?
I’m currently working on abook of my work, and a new show.

Share something you would like the world to know about you?
I think we are better when we work together, the people united can never be defeated.

Define ‘Klassik International’ and MEDIA NEWS ‘Klassik Magazine International’ for the audience? ‘It’s an honor and a pleasure.‘Klassik International’ and MEDIA NEWS ‘Klassik Magazine International’, a cutting edge, contemporary agency of arts and culture
Thanks. Much love’