A tension between ourselves and our commercial environment at large: paintings of Royal Jarmon

Royal Jarmon is a painter and sculptor who jumps between mediums to create his vivid works that capture the imagination and then bring it back to reality. The commercial and stark references his works have are a refreshing and grounding way of looking at objecthood — and then back at painting again. Being an artist from the Midwest who traveled to New York City, he uses familiar imagery within dizzying urban landscapes to show us a tension between ourselves and our commercial environment at large. 

He pushes through moments of darkness with absurdity and wit that leave you within a mixed emotional conundrum. You don’t always know if it is alright to think something depicted is beautiful or funny — or beautifully funny.

Jarmon is not afraid of pushing the tensions between the absurd and the way we perceive ourselves within this urban-centric lifetime. Each piece is flooded with color and optimism with a poetic undertow of cynicism and darkness. 

AMM: Can you talk about your background and how it drove you into the arts?

RJ: I’ve always been especially drawn to anything I could work on creatively from a young age. I was born in CA but grew up in the Midwest so I was always wanting to get away. I didn’t go to college, so I spent most of my time making things and painting as I travelled throughout most of my twenties. Living in various places gave me the character that defines some of the flavor of the work. Now, living in Brooklyn a few years, I’ve been in a rich arts community that has helped me develop my craft.

AMM: Your work is vibrant and lively with layers of rich color; can you talk about the allure of the color plates you chose? 

RJ: I’m interested in all the relationships that can coexist in an image; also the intensity of those relationships. I like problem painting, finding the solutions makes for a good artwork.

AMM: Could you talk about your relationship between painting and sculpture? 

RJ: They inform each other. I get bored easily. Having two types of work helps me get more done and learn new things. I bounce back and forth, sometimes a sculpture might help me see exactly how I can paint something in a new way.

AMM: When you are referencing specific brands and companies within your works, do you feel they have an extra political charge?

RJ: There is, but it is usually an intuitive conclusion which I will usually understand more after a work has been done a while. Looking back, it’s easier to connect the dots of what I was trying to do all along.

AMM: How do you think about the often dangerous, or precarious placements of items in your paintings? 

RJ: It will usually be emphasizing something or creating abstract value to hold some part of the painting together; whether it be visual or conceptual. I like contrasts/tension as a flavor, so naturally it’s there in my art.

AMM: What goes through your mind when you are creating your NASCAR crashing compositions? 

RJ: It usually connects with some event/mood that I or someone close is going through. There’s also a political dialogue about culture. Although the same as I said before, a lot of times I don’t know why I add things to a painting until a while after I’ve started it with an image in my head. The car crashes are funny, but dark. I guess I want them to convey the beauty that can accompany difficult times in life.

AMM: Do you think humor plays a role in how you would like your work to be perceived? 

RJ: Yes, I do. It’s there but ambiguous, I want the viewers to create their own dialogue and draw on their own references. It’s funny but it’s not. Why is it funny? Why is it not funny?

AMM: Do you think your life is exposed to the viewer through your paintings — or do you think you are exposing specific snapshots of someone else’s life? 

RJ: Yes they expose my life. But it’s not about me, that’s just my material to work with. I’m often thinking of culture and human condition.

AMM: How often do you think of the traditional still life painting when you are arranging your artworks?

RJ: I’m not thinking about traditional still life painting too much. I’ll study some from time to time but not often.

Find out more about the artist: www.royaljarmon.com

Interview by Megan St.Clair for ArtMaze Mag.