Having honed his craft in the DIY, rough-and-tumble creative culture of Berlin before relocating to South London, it comes as no surprise that the work of printmaker Jonathan Lawes is a bold, colourful collision that reflects the experimental geometry of both cities.
Part Matisse cut-out, part Memphis Group kitsch and – we’re going to say it – delightfully part-Pacman, we couldn’t think of a better contender to design the slick new face masks for the equally eye-catching Bermonds Locke.
In between experimenting with his own screen prints and turning out custom designs for the likes of COS and furniture brand Diabla, Jonathan spends any hours that he’s not getting messy in his Peckham studio unearthing creative inspiration in Bermondsey and beyond.
Here he tells us the artist workshops to get our hands dirty in, the best place in South London for a boozy brunch, and the local landmark he’d like to give a top-to-toe makeover in his outlandish signature style.
What are the key ingredients of a Jonathan Lawes print?
I think the most important thing is a good dose of colour, whether that be nice and bright or something more toned down. I’m actually quite minimal when it comes to my own home, but my artwork gives me the opportunity to let loose.
How much is your work shaped by the place you’re in?
Being out and about does help – it keeps your eyes and mind open to new ideas. I love to travel and take in colours from different places, so all the restrictions this year have been difficult. The weather also has a big effect on me – the recent heatwave has brought out the sizzling neons!
If you had to design a colour palette for South London, what would you choose?
It’d have to be something bright and punchy. Definitely a bit of my go-to colour of neon orange mixed with some teal and blue, plus a soft grey to tone some areas down.
What’s the difference between being an artist in Berlin and in London?
I’d never actually lived in London and thought it was the perfect place to take my career to the next level, which it has. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper to have studio space in Berlin, but on the flip side I feel you can achieve more here, and ultimately that’s a risk I was happy to take.
What’s the biggest misconception about South London?
That it isn’t well connected with transport and it’s too far away. London is enormous – that was one of the things I struggled with when I first moved here – but I’ve never had any major issues getting to where I need to be.
What’s your favourite place to get inspired?
I love going to White Cube gallery in Bermondsey. The big white walls and open space really appeal to me and it’s never overly crowded, which is perfect when you need a bit of time to yourself.
Your work has a very geometric, architectural vibe. Is there a piece of South London architecture that you adore?
I love the Shard. Although it divides opinion, I think it’s a fantastic piece of architecture and I always find myself looking up at it when I’m nearby. I also really like the Fashion and Textile Museum building on Bermondsey Street – it’s a great colour and very Los Angeles in style.
What was the inspiration behind the design for the Bermonds Locke face masks?
It was a print I started during the lockdown phase and finished once the studio opened up again. I was using a lot of soft pinks and muted magentas at the time, and liked the way they combined with the blues and orange. The design itself came about organically from layering shapes upon each other and therefore creating more shapes within.
Post lockdown, do you think that people are craving more colour and joy?
Most definitely. It’s been a difficult year for everyone and I feel a little splash of colour can bring a lot to your day. The time during lockdown was probably the busiest I’ve ever been and I’m eternally grateful to everyone who came to me. I’m just happy to be back printing in the studio – long may it continue.
How would you describe the South London creative community? Are there any local artists you want to shout out?
Without even really knowing much about it beforehand, I’ve managed to stumble across an incredibly creative area down here. There are so many artists that I admire. I’ve got to give a shout out to Roz Edenbrow (@rossie_edenbrow), whose monoprints are amazing, and Amelia Potts (@ameliarosepotts). I was lucky enough to get a little piece by her recently that my girlfriend and I love.
We hear you run printmaking classes from your Peckham studio. What can we expect if we sign up?
Yes, I do some occasional print workshops at Sonsoles Print Studio in Peckham. The focus is really on colour and letting people loosen up and have fun. I’ll keep you entertained all day with funny stories, plus you’ll leave with a big stack of prints to decorate your home with!
Now we’re feeling creative, are there any other workshops in the area that we might like?
Ceramicist Jode Pankhurst (@jodepankhurst) does some workshops at Vanguard Court, where my studio is based. She’s another artist who does fantastic work (I’m a sucker for ceramics) and her courses are a lot of fun.
Which galleries should we add to our list?
I’ve already mentioned White Cube in Bermondsey, but I also rate their outpost in Mason’s Yard. Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall is another firm favourite – it showcases selected works from Damien Hirst’s personal collection.
Lately we’ve all spent a bit more time than usual Pinteresting our dream interiors. Where should we go to pick up some unique prints or homeware?
Well, the first stop should probably be my own web store (https://jonathanlawes.com/shop). I update it regularly with one-off creations in a variety of different colourways, so I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your needs! Homeware-wise, one of my many favourites is Insidestore, which is up in Tufnell Park. I know it means crossing the river, but it’s most definitely worth the trip.
What’s your favourite South London spot for Saturday brunch?
Kudu, a little South African restaurant around the corner from where I live in Peckham, is my top tip. I also really like the small-plates restaurant Two Hundred Rye Lane. It’s tiny, local and very friendly - plus they do a boozy brunch that combines Bellinis and Espresso Martinis...
How about for a date-night dinner?
Can I choose Kudu again? It really is that good. Other than that, I’d go for Silk Rd in Camberwell, which serves northern Chinese cuisine at a fast pace. You’ll be in and out in a flash, but full to the brim and very satisfied.
What bars or clubs can we visit to party like a Berliner, but in Bermondsey?
I’m afraid my clubbing days are well and truly behind me, but I do enjoy a glass of wine at Lechevalier on Tower Bridge Road.
Are there any overlooked local spots that you’d like to show some love?
Beer Rebellion is a great little joint in Peckham, and next door the wine bar Peckham Cellars does lovely seasonally focused food (and wine, of course). I also like going to John the Unicorn on Rye Lane, grabbing myself a pint and people-watching from the front windows.
Finally, if you could completely cover one place in South London with one of your prints, what would it be?
It would have to be the Shard. It’s massive and you’d see my work for miles!
The Jonathan Lawes facemasks will be available to purchase at all Locke hotels from mid-September.