The Lure of the Dark
Jonathan Bergeron’s New Show Reimagines the Apocalypse
A white wooden bungalow shines like enamel atop a tapering mass of rock and earth that once held it in suburbia’s perfect smile. A paddleboat swings from the precipice by a wire, threatening to crash to the waterfall below. Outside the picket fence, severed power lines sway, limp reminders of civilization. Birds circle in the sky, not a person in sight.
This scene is from “The Fall/La Chute,” one among many striking pieces in painter and illustrator Jonathan Bergeron’s latest solo exhibit, Lueurs, set to open at Galerie Yves Laroche on Oct. 10.
The exhibit’s darker tone is a far cry from the tattoo-heavy, California, lowbrow and pop culture-inspired art that Bergeron has produced for over 20 years, earning him an international fanbase and illustration gigs with bands like Slayer, Alice Cooper and Children of Bodom.
Bergeron, who also signs as his tongue-in-cheek pen name, Johnny Crap, recently exhibited his heavily detailed black-and-white style in Montreal’s SCREWED tattoo art show.
His Tumblr and Instagram pages reveal offbeat sketches of SpongeBob Heavy Metal Pants, dapper Boston terriers dressed in top hats and suits, and pin-up babes turned sci-fi.
Still, the Montreal-based artist said that the thematic progression to Lueurs emerged naturally as a by-product of his own evolution as an artist and father.
“I just had my second kid, and just looking back five or six years ago from when I had my first one, my work has already changed,” said Bergeron.
“Way back at the beginning of my career, what I was doing was really based in graffiti and hot-rod culture, but getting older, I want to explore deeper feelings that I have through my paintings,” said Bergeron.
Lueurs means “the glows,” and fittingly for an artist perhaps most well-known for his tongue-in-cheek take on Mexican folklore, the morbidity of the exhibition’s pieces, many of which hint at ecological disaster and doom, is almost always accompanied by a halo of humour.
“In a lot of my new work, you can see remnants of what human life was, but not necessarily a lot of characters,” said Bergeron.
“There is a bit of hope, a ray of hope, but it’s not necessarily for us. There are plants taking back what’s theirs, that’s why there are giant flowers everywhere. There’s isolation. There’s a bit of loneliness.”
Abandoned houses, ominous skulls and the occasional lantern-wielding traveler rendered in Bergeron’s signature style—which blends cartoonishness and Romanticism—lead the viewer to creative narrative thinking.
“I’m inspired by illustration, too,” said Bergeron, who cited cartoons like Ren and Stimpy and comics as visual influences. “So it’s a bit of storytelling without telling the whole story. People can look at my paintings and make a scenario for themselves.”
Lueurs / Oct. 10 to Oct. 24 / Galerie Yves Laroche (6355 St. Laurent Blvd.) / FREE / For more info check out johnnycrap.com, johnnycrap.tumblr.com, and @johnnycrap on Instagram.