Jon Ng

Inside Art
Jon Ng

While many paintings cause you to stare as you drink in the scene in front of you, Jon Ng’s paintings inspire you to gaze. As you gaze, you’re likely to travel to a deeper level of consciousness that can potentially answer some of your life questions.

Though it’s not been a conscious effort for Ng, after more than three decades of representational painting, including figurative pieces and landscapes, he now sees a contemplative theme running through his work.

“Style isn’t a quality that’s made; it develops over time,” says Ng, who had a studio in the Old Towne Plaza in the 1990s and is now based in Santa Ana. “You discover your style as you work. In my paintings, I’ve found a spaciousness that allows stillness and contemplation to occur.”

Ng’s most recent work consists of scenes from Newport’s Back Bay, and even more recently, cloudscapes. These series came about after he painted figurative pieces for many years and decided to refocus. What resulted was a series of landscape paintings that transcend their settings.

“I became inspired to paint the Newport Back Bay series around 2006, when I began taking meditative walks on the more secluded west side near the marshes,” says Ng, whose paintings are in private collections and galleries. “I wanted my next body of work to be even more intuitive and responsive to an inner source. I’d read about finding a connection with things you love that bring you alive. The Back Bay brought me alive, so I decided to paint the area and capture the peace of mind and spaciousness—optically and psychologically—that those walks gave me.”

Around the same time, Ng had an experience on an airplane that led to his cloudscape paintings. “It was late afternoon when I looked out the plane’s window and saw this incredible view of thick cloud cover and a full moon. Like the Back Bay series, something connected me to the scene. On another occasion flying over the Midwest in the evening, I witnessed an electrical storm erupting under the cloud cover. For 30 minutes, sparks of light flashed through.”

Early Connection to Nature

For Ng, his connection to nature stems from childhood. He was born in New York City and then grew up across the river in New Jersey until he was 12.

“At first, we lived in Essex County, and for a brief, but formative period, in South Jersey near Cherry Hill. Back then it was all farm country. Like Huckleberry Finn, I’d explore the woods with my brother. I wouldn’t say that my childhood experience with nature has a direct effect on my work, but it certainly colored my view.”

In 1974, Ng and his family moved to Huntington Beach. “It was a bit of a culture shock after New Jersey, but Huntington Beach was much different than today,” he says. “There were still oil pumps on the beach and farms everywhere.”

He attended middle school and high school in Huntington Beach. In his junior year, after doing a drawing for extra credit in French class, his teacher encouraged him to take art classes, so he did the following semester and found it to be a natural fit. During his senior year, he took several art classes.

Ng was also into playing sports. He was recruited to attend the University of Redlands to play basketball. Initially, he focused primarily on sports, but at the beginning of his sophomore year, he met an art teacher who changed his trajectory.

The art teacher was John Nava, a prominent American painter, who also works with textiles and tapestry. “Back then he was just starting to show his work in Los Angeles and gaining traction,” says Ng. “I took several classes from him, including drawing. That experience made me realize I was going to spend my life creating art.”

After graduating with a BFA in studio arts and a minor in Spanish from The University of Redlands, Ng moved to Minneapolis in 1985 to live in a tiny carriage house on his father’s property. “I found a job in a small art gallery and tried to get my work into galleries,” he says. “That proved more difficult than I thought, and I froze in the Minnesota weather.”

After four years living in Minneapolis, in 1988 Ng accepted an invitation from Nava to participate in a summer arts program at California State University, Humboldt. “It was an extensive one-week figurative painting and drawing workshop,” says Ng. “I met other artists, and the experience took me to the next level.”

Return to OC

Ng went back to Minneapolis for another year and then returned to Orange County to attend graduate school at California State University, Fullerton. He originally intended to teach after he earned his MFA, but only taught for a short time. Instead, he went to work for friends in their interior design company in the late 1990s.

“I was hired as a muralist, so I’d paint murals in new homes and other types of decorative painting, such as faux finishes,” he says. He also continued to produce his own paintings and installed art, as well as did other side jobs.

In 2008, when the Great Recession hit, Ng was grateful for his jack-of-all-trades experiences. “As a self-employed independent contractor affiliated with the housing industry, my work literally evaporated overnight,” he says. “I’d been represented by three galleries, all of which closed. I kept myself afloat financially by taking odd jobs.”

That experience taught him about commitment and discipline. “When I got home from working all day, I’d go into my studio and paint,” he says. “I thought, what’s the point of any of this if I’m not making art?”

Ng’s commitment to painting has impressed Nava. “Jon has a tremendous work ethic,” he says. “As a result of his dedication, he consistently produces quality work that is not at all formulaic.”

Nava has also watched Ng’s style form over the years. “Jon has developed his own landscape imagery that’s not deadpan realist paintings of landscapes or idealized nature scenes, but mystical views,” he says. “What makes his work so compelling is that he projects into nature and draws a vaster, more cosmic vision. His cloudscapes communicate this transcendent, non-earthbound view of nature.”

Abstractionist painter and sculptor, Michael Stearns, agrees. “Jon isn’t a typical landscape painter. There’s always a bit of an edge to his work. It’s almost like he creates noir landscapes featuring subtle undertones that are slightly dark, but never negative. For instance, a painting might depict dusk when the world is transitioning from light to dark. His cloud series is often ethereal and intrigues the viewer. You wonder what he’s trying to get you to see. That’s the fascination I have with his work. It makes you look within yourself.”

Above, Below, and Away

The painting on the inside cover of this issue, “Above, Below, and Away,” was inspired by a photograph of a sunset from above the clouds. “I used the image as a jumping off point,” Ng says. “I worked to capture the serene sense of quiet in the light blue skies above and the darker hues and shadows the closer you get to earth. It’s all about depicting the mood so that viewers who choose to can jump in and take flight.” •

For more information about Jon Ng, visit www.jonng.net/site.

Published in the Jan/Feb 2018 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review

Written by Julie Bawden-Davis, photo provided by Jon Ng

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © OrangeReview.com | MikeEsco@OrangeReview.com