Cape Town artist Jono Dry is presenting a collection of his Rational Animal series at a quirky venue in De Waterkant on January 24th 2014. Already, at just 24, this young artist has built a following of admirers and collectors who will have the rare opportunity to see a collection of all the works that lead him to the Rational Animal series. Developing further from his sensitive nude studies and surrealistic compositions, the series took him almost 2 years to complete. Each detailed graphite drawing takes up to 2 months.
Dry aims to push the boundaries of conventionality with his work and to broaden the viewer’s perception the ordinary. His photorealistic representations of the unreal create a tension between appearance and reality. By subtly combining these two elements he challenges our perceptions of reality and encourages us to assess and evaluate our biases, values and various other beliefs.
The Rational Animal series stays true to these aims while exploring the more specific theme of perceptions of identity and ‘the Other’. Dry’s works serve as a comment on the human tendency to create distance between oneself and those perceived to be different in some way – differences such as sexuality, race, religion, culture, socioeconomic status and the like. The hybrid creatures depicted in this series encourage the viewer to take on the perspective of the Other. The viewer is confronted with beings that are at once familiar and foreign and is challenged to reflect on her ideas concerning others who fall into these two opposing categories. By viewing fellow humans as Other we become detached, isolated, disconnected and alienated. By creating beings that are different from the human viewer in such an overt and observable way, the artist asks her to remember how we are alike rather than how we differ, to find a common ground and in so doing to find acceptance – for others and for herself.
Rationality was lauded by many classical and Enlightenment thinkers as the pinnacle of human existence. Dry challenges this notion by showing us that rationality gives us the ability us to distort or misrepresent reality to suit our own purposes. We are biased towards our own interests and tell ourselves stories to make ourselves believe in things more comfortable and less unsettling than reality. Through this series Dry aims to expose those biases by systematically distorting reality, but in this case the distortions do not necessarily suit our purposes or serve our perceived interests. The artist makes us uncomfortable with reality as he presents it. It is in this discomfort that we are forced to confront our biases and perhaps change our perspective to one that more accurately aligns with reality. A basic and intuitive definition of truth is that it is an accurate representation of the way things really are. Thus, by forcing us to confront our biases, whatever they may be, Dry helps us to adjust our perspectives and perhaps get closer to the truth. The viewer is encouraged to undertake the demanding and sometimes painful process of reshaping her perspectives to more accurately reflect reality. This task requires the commitment to tearing down old biases and the realisation that while beliefs should ideally conform to reality, reality is at the same time shaped by an individual’s beliefs.