Artist J.C. Fontanive sitting on a stool in his studio surrounded by his large-scale abstract paintings.

Working across a range of media, J.C. Fontanive is interested in movement, cinema, and mechanics, both literally and metaphorically as an attempt to try to understand the designing force of nature and evolution through time.

Where are you from and where do you reside?

I’m from Cleveland, OH. I lived in London and New York for many years but recently moved back to Cleveland and love it.

What necessities do you require when making your art (radio, specific paintbrushes, etc.)?

Music and Gum. They give me energy when I need it.

Describe a typical day in the studio for you.

In the morning I think a lot in the studio and just stare and things. I have a really comfortable Knoll chair that I like to sit in as I think and look. Then I make sure all the machines and work areas are clean, then start making chips and messes. I love being in the studio so I’m there most of the day. Around 6pm I try to clean up then go home to eat and relax.

Artist J.C. Fontanive working in his light-filled studio.
Multiple colored enamel on copper pieces by artist J.C. Fontanive.

How do you choose your materials?

I love metal. I know a lot about different grades of metal and how they machine, cut and weld. But I also love wood, paint, paper, and lots of other materials. I have lots of images in my imagination that I develop over the years in drawings. Then, when I work with different materials I pay attention to which one would suit the images. Wood is more forgiving while metal is more exact. Paper is delicate, while thick oil paint has a luscious quality to it.

Do you find that your location strongly influences the direction of your work?

The frenetic streets of New York influenced me a lot when I lived there. I liked looking through layers of moving people, cars, trains, through store windows with things moving inside and random combinations and arrangements of shapes and compositions that are filled with energy. My current surroundings are more calm and natural, so I’m inspired in a different way. I like the large oak and pine trees around me, how they sound in the wind, and the lines, shadows, scents, and imagery they create.

Movement is a thread that has been consistent in my work for many years. I love moving images and the character of how objects move - from specific mechanisms to organic movement in nature.

J.C. Fontanive

In addition to your painting and sculpture practice you also create motorized sculptures that mimic the flight of moths, birds, and butterflies. How has this other arm of your practice influenced the other work you make in the studio? Does one inform the other?

The kinetic machines I create influence most of my other work. My recent series of paintings entitled Lines Indicating Movement are probably influenced by a machine I made called Timelines. I think that the paintings could almost be still frames captured from that machine as it moves. Some of the enamel and wood works are made from spinning drawings, like a machine. Also the repetition and aesthetics of machinery - or the machines in the way that I make them - light, freeform, but also precise - are carried through to the other mediums.

What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces, intentional or not?

Movement is a thread that has been consistent in my work for many years. I love moving images and the character of how objects move - from specific mechanisms to organic movement in nature.

Are you formally trained? Did you go to art school? Who did you train with / Did you have a mentor?

I was very lucky to be able to attend the Royal College of Art in London and earned a Master’s degree there. I worked with tutors and technicians in various departments that got me very excited about many subjects ranging from 1980s experimental animation, to lithography, to welding, and running a metalworking lathe.

An oversized, colorful wall work by artist J.C. Fontanive in his studio.
Artist J.C. Fontanive holding the edges of a large, abstract work on canvas in his studio.

Published June 17, 2024.