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Artist leaves viewer to unravel paintings stories
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"Stop" by Jonathan Roy

Jonathan Roy's imposing, comic book-like works each tell individual stories that are woven together to form a collective narrative.

What happens in that narrative, however, is up to the viewer.

Currently on display at The Quinlan Visual Arts Center in an exhibit called "Interlude," Roy's stark, black and white pieces grab you and take you into a world of dark figures and broody runaways brought to life with charcoal, ink, oil and acrylic paint.

The canvases' large size, each at least 48 inches tall, give viewers a chance to become immersed in the paintings and imagine what they might mean.

"I want people to get from it what they want and not be troubled by not getting it," Roy said. "The collective story is what everyone brings to it."

Roy also included two collections of napkin sketches in the exhibit that give viewers a chance to see how his ideas develop.

"I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them," he said. "They do reference the other works. A lot of the bigger works are derived from napkin drawings."

Because of their quick production, Roy said the napkins have "lots of movement, spirit and dynamism."

Roy said "Interlude" departs from his usual painting style.

"This is one sort of direction that I've been working in and I have some wildly different stuff," Roy said. "More interior decorating abstracts. I haven't stuck in one thing."

To create the paintings for "Interlude," Roy said he was inspired by quick sketches he had created.

"Some (paintings) I did a long time ago and some I created in the last year," he said. "I generally start with the idea for each piece and see where it takes me."

The paintings' dynamic look, like the napkin sketches they are derived from, comes from quick production time.

"There's not a lot of drying time. They happen pretty quickly, but I revisit them," Roy said. "There's not a whole lot of thought about what they mean."

Roy said the paintings included in "Interlude" are admittedly dark, but said "there's less drama in happy."

"I think they are dark, and everybody I know says they're dark," Roy said. "Do you know any happy paintings out there? Beyond the potted flowers and landscapes out there?"

Roy attended high school in Atlanta before moving to New York to study architecture at Columbia University.

"I became a graphic designer and architect when I bought a computer, finally," Roy said.

Roy said he worked as a graphic designer and as an architect, designing restaurants, before he began to think seriously about painting.

"I've always been a drawer and a watercolorist and things like that as long as I remember," he said. "Since I came to this painting thing late in the evolution of things, I feel like I'm still practicing."

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