Hot in the city? Not right now, but when Jonathan Lawes moved from Berlin to London back in the summer, the sunshine vibes were in plentiful supply…

When Jonathan first joined the Look Up roster he was based over in Berlin, printing up a storm at Stattlab, just north of the city centre. He moved to Peckham in June, and it’s fair to say he's hit the ground running, creating a seemingly endless stream of glorious prints for various galleries and print sellers – including two fantastic editions for yours truly. We caught up with Jonathan to find out more about what he’s been up to, and whether the summer heat inspired the tropical flavour of his latest Look Up editions…

Acapulco 01
on the drying racks at Sonsoles Print Studio

Look Up You moved to London fairly recently, but you’ve been super busy: printing here, there and everywhere… What’s it like being back in the UK?

Jonathan Lawes It’s good to be back. I’ve never lived in London before, but... so far so good. It’s taking a while to adjust to the size of the city and the millions of people (LU – surprising fact: Berlin’s population is 5 million less than London's), but I’m getting there. There's so much going on and it’s great to finally be able to take advantage of that.

LU Apart from your new Look Up editions, what have you been working on? 

JL I’ve made some new editions and monoprints for Print Club London – keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming group exhibition in October (Blisters – Season 7: Screenprint Poster Show, more info here) – a couple of private commissions, some collaborative work and lots of smaller scale prints for various art markets. All in all, a busy period – but I think I work best that way, ploughing through things.

Squeegee time: Jonathan in the studio (photo by Carlos Meyer)

LU You now live in Peckham, and every now and then you're printing at the fantastic Sonsoles Print Studio. What do you like about the set up there?

JL Yes, I’m based in Peckham and very pleased with my choice. There’s so much going on down here art-wise. Regarding Sonsoles, it’s hard to describe without sounding a little crazy! It’s just the best. I absolutely love printing there. There's a real sense of community with all the printmakers, and the facilities are top notch. There’s a relaxed, calming atmosphere... I need that when I’m printing, since most of the input comes on the printing table, rather than planning in advance. I had a good studio space in Berlin and I must admit I was a little stressed about finding something as good over here, but I’ve found it – without a doubt. It’s a real treasure and I won’t be letting go of it!

LU You moved back to London just as the heatwave kicked in... Did the long hot summer have any discernible influence on your work?

JL Wow, that heatwave was intense! It took nearly six weeks to get my first drops of rain back in the UK. There were times when it was too much, but looking back it was also fun… I arrived back during full-on World Cup fever and it was pretty fantastic, but thank god for the air-conditioning at Sonsoles! It made it more bearable to work, but it also helped to prevent inks and paper stencils drying out too fast.

Acapulco 01 and Acapulco 02 in 'Spectrum' a Look Up exhibition at Buhler and Co

LU Moving on to your new Look Up editions, can you tell me a little but about the process involved in making them?

JL My new Look Up editions were printed entirely with paper stencils, rather than exposed screens. I really like working this way – it speeds up the entire process and means you can put more time into the actual printing, as opposed to screen preparation. You obviously can’t use them for too long, as they tend to wear away over time, but I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way that help me out.

LU We love the colour palette. Can you tell me how you chose this particular palette: did you know you were using these colours before starting, or do you tend to pick and print one colour, and then decide what to do next?

JL I’m really pleased with the palette too. Like most of my process and colour choices, it all comes from experimenting and playing around with layering on off-cuts of paper. I’m particularly fond of the darker orange/mustard tone, from printing the orange over the blue. That, accompanied by the pink and a pop of neon red in Acapulco 01 is very nice.

Acapulco 01
by Jonathan Lawes

LU Last time we met you talked about how spontaneity plays an important role in your printmaking: the freedom to try new things and make decisions layer by layer, throughout the printmaking process. Working with hand-cut paper stencils must make that process easier? 

JL I like to work in the present, so I don’t spend much time planning in advance. My best work comes when I’m spontaneous and grasp the challenge with both hands. I do have a bit of a short attention span and want things done right; working with stencils definitely helps to speed things up. I find it difficult to sit waiting for emulsion to dry etc. I feel I often lose my rhythm. In the first of my new editions I actually added the pink at the top at the last minute. I felt something was missing and so added the extra layer. Looking at it now, I’m really pleased that I chose to act on that impulse, as I feel it adds that extra element.

Detail of Acapulco 01 – the pink element top right was a rather successful afterthought

LU You've named these two editions – Acapulco 01 and Acapulco 02 – after the Mayan hammock-style chair… What’s the link?

JL I love Acapulco chairs and the variety of bright, bold colours they're made in. I haven’t been to Mexico, but I’d love to visit some time soon. I felt my colour palette seemed to match the feeling of high energy, hot summer days on the Pacific coast.

Acapulco 02
 by Jonathan Lawes

LU You’re a busy chap Jonathan: what’s coming up in the next few months?

JL I'm very busy! I’m working on a few things here and there, and next up is some new works for Whitegrid Gallery in Berlin. I’m also exhibiting some work at the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair in November, which I’m looking forward to. I’ve just got back from a holiday in Italy, to get a final dose of sunshine and recharge the batteries for later in the year.

Jonathan printing one of his favourite colours (photo by Carlos Meyer)

Ah, holidays… Sounds like a great idea Jonathan! We can't wait to see what he creates this Autumn, when he’s feeling all refreshed and revitalised from his Italian adventures. Our advice, if you're a fan of Jonathan's work, is to stay up to date with his prolific, evolving printmaking practice by following him on Instagram – he’s always adding pics of new work. And if you'd to find out more about Jonathan’s practice and see his full collection of Look Up editions, here are some handy links...

Jonathan Lawes on Look Up

Jonathan Lawes on Instagram