Jonathan McBurnie

Jonathan McBurnie


Jonathan McBurnie is an artist, writer and cartoonist presently based in Townsville, Australia. Jonathan began self-publishing comic books at the age ten, and his life has been a series of constant projects ever since. Completing a PhD at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, in 2015, McBurnie’s thesis and accompanying studio works explored the shifting role of drawing in the digital age, emphasizing the discipline’s ongoing tenacity through tactility, adaptability and eroticism. These works are an argument between established high and low art forms, and question popular culture’s impact upon society, particularly in terms of shaping identity, and the ways such iconographies are used as fodder for artistic vision, as well as a means of self-expression. McBurnie approaches his work as a collision of high and low forms, and seeks the narrative propulsion and dense visual language that lies in the tension between these forms.

Burial for Lovers 2019, ink on paper

McBurnie is presently the Creative Director of Perc Tucker Regional Gallery and Pinnacles Gallery, and also writes on occasion, having been published in EyelineCatalogueThe Lifted BrowPenthouse AustraliaTrip, the Journal of Asia-Pacific Pop Culture and Sneaky, where he was an editor and contributor.

artist statement

McBurnie’s practice is a reaction to, or a divergence from, the unavoidable techno-capitalist status quo, holding up the tactile experiences of the studio as subversive and transgressive.

He assigns himself an impossible and tragedian role of a flesh and blood machine, hammering away in the studio, trying (and failing) to keep up with the expanding digital sprawl, a kind of flawed, meme-age reference to John Henry and competing with the steam-powered drill.

Apocalyptus 2019, ink and watercolour on paper

This outpouring of oneself leaves little time for the naval gazing and over-theorization of much contemporary art, instead finding meaning in the act of making, and through occasional backwards glances at the remains of such catharsis.

Questions of genre, form and medium are abandoned for sometimes haphazard, interdisciplinary approach to narrative. Collage forms a backbone to his work, used as a compositional tool, pushing pictorial balance, style and perspective outside their typical limits, and embodying its philosophy; infinite configurations of imagery, appropriated from multiple sources, perspectives and aesthetics.

Birdland 2019, ink on paper

Chance plays a key part in the image making process, as does a kind of disrupted, deliberately obscured autobiography. Jonathan approaches autobiography as something akin to the kayfabe of professional wrestling; that is, the continued adherence to invented on-screen or on-stage narratives, a separation of the public and private self. This tension is explored through studio practice, on the level of the personal-biological, and in terms of collision, and materiality and transcendence, the sublime and the ridiculous working hand in hand.