To view a JonMarc Edwards work is to recognize its author immediately. The coherent symbolic vocabulary established by this painter/sculptor/assemblage artist over the past decade and a half is, in more ways than one, entirely readable. In his works, the artist consistently employs the signs making up the English language as communicators of ideas, emotions and imagery by collapsing into a single block of space each letter of a carefully chosen word or phrase. Although at first glance the complex characters fashioned by Edwards appear as undecipherable as Chinese calligraphy to a Westerner, each becomes familiar upon any further inspection. In the end, Edwards re-contextualizes and successfully makes foreign the very signage with which we, as readers of the English language, are most familiar. He forces the viewer to reassess and to reconsider the way in which he or she gleans meaning from the arbitrary letter-age with which we are so accustomed.
JonMarc has stated of his work that, “If you decide to read or decode the characters that doesn’t necessarily mean you have ‘figured out’ the work. It means you have deciphered the conscious layer.” This is particularly evident in works like his Burning Bridge as displayed at Contemporary Istanbul this winter. In this case, to just decode or read the compressed character made up of the letters in the word “bridge” is hardly comparable to the myriad of connotations available to someone familiar with the idea of the phrase “to burn one’s bridges.” With this association, the image presented by Edwards not only communicates the meaning behind a simple word or phrase, but also that behind a larger, more complex idea and subconscious human anxiety.
In the example of other works by Edwards such as his Cheerleader (War) the human figure enters his oeuvre, and with a political bang. Here, the cheerleader is comprised of compressed characters spelling out, among other things, the word “war.” Pom poms drip aggressively outward and “war characters” radiate from her featureless face. The resultant artwork exclaims much on frustrated attitudes towards current-day violence, and perhaps even more on government authority.