JOHN LENNARD: From punk to paint


When a professional art critic visits a gallery to see the work of  a new artist, it is my suspicion that he/she does his/her research homework and, then, views the new artist and the work with a contextual framework already in mind. A collector’s approach is different. Size, price, medium move to the fore as does the ubiquitous, “Does it match my colour scheme?” Exhaustive research fatigues me and I have NO colour scheme. My reaction to a painting is immediate, almost visceral, and I have to possess that which so captivated me. Such was my reaction to the paintings of John Lennard in his recent show at Roberts Gallery in Toronto.

     These paintings “pop” with vibrant colours and kinetic energy. Large white clouds scud against blue skies, sail boats smack the edges of docks, swaths of paint, liberally applied, jostle like giant shards of coloured ice seeking place and space.  Moving backward from product to process, how and why did John become a painter?

     At five years of age, John took crayon to one of his mother’s favourite paintings because he felt it could be improved with a few more lines. An early example of art begets art. Like many painters, formal instruction in art schools was problematic for John; some helpful, some not. OCAD was not. Travel in Europe, the viewing of the Western World’s most famous paintings, being the stranger in strange lands were more useful for John. John thrived with “plein air” technique which fostered his skill in capturing the dynamics of the moment. For me, the key to John Lennard’s art is music and, most particularly, his long association with the Theatre of Hate punk band. When I looked at the “YouTube” videos of Theatre of Hate, there is John, front and center, pounding on his saxophone. The music, the lights, the screaming fans are the disparate elements which combine into a challenging oneness.

     The media may be different but the punk vibe has slipped into John’s work.  Check out the paintings, check out the music and get a sense of John Lennard’s efforts to push the envelop of what painting can do.

Tom Maunder, 

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