On Jonathan Monaghan…

Posted by | George William Price | Posted on | September 16, 2014

This season we are commissioning original content from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago student body inspired by and about the many exciting artists we will be showcasing. Over the course of the season we will be publishing short texts on each artist’s practice written by students from across SAIC. Many of these students will also be interviewing our artists for this very blog—so remember to check back throughout the Fall season!

Still from Alien Fanfare (Jonathan Monaghan, 2014). Courtesy of the artist.

Still from Alien Fanfare (Jonathan Monaghan, 2014). Courtesy of the artist.

As CATE’s program assistant I wanted to get the ball rolling with some thoughts on this week’s artist: Jonathan Monaghan.

I first encountered Jonathan Monaghan’s work online and was thrilled to find out we would be programming him at CATE. Characterized by bizarre characters, themes, and styles, his animated films are unpredictable and evocative. I’m often left thinking about them long after the last frame.

I’m particularly drawn to his films Dauphin (2011) and Rainbow Narcosis (2013). Monaghan describes Dauphin as a work “where meanings don’t quite materialize.” It features a stately lion who encounters a guillotine and an MRI machine, polar bears (characters he has used in previous animations), and tiny people who seem to be filming the entire thing from the background.

Rainbow Narcosis is among Monaghan’s wildest pieces. It features nine minutes of a headless lamb going through a series of strange landscapes. Some of the scenes feature commonly recognizable places, like office cubicles, but others are entirely abstract. As with all of his animated films, is slickly produced in a hyper-real style. This makes the discontinuity between characters and places all the more striking.

Monaghan’s works speak to the Internet age. They address serious themes – like corporate and political power – while maintaining a light touch, and yet their surreal imagery provokes viewers into thinking about them for a long time. I’m looking forward to seeing his latest works and hearing more about his process at this week’s CATE.

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