The works featured in ‘A Great Deal of Whatever You Want’ express the artists’, Zach Zono, desire to develop deeper within his understanding of his personal practice. The compositions reflect fragmented memories and how when we try to relive them, we tend to exaggerate them.
At 23, Zono is a young artist whose vibrant, blotchy, abstraction-meets-figuration oil paintings are attracting attention, including ours. Last year he held his first solo show, Within Reach, at The Fitzrovia Gallery in London, inspired by the flowers that grow near his family home in Cape Town, a practice that he continues to refract and interrogate. His latest work is progressing towards abstract expressionism. A flower, but not quite a flower. Sixties New York via Hackney with humour and feeling.
“I grew up by the ocean,” says Zono, who has swept back hair and an easy-going South African lilt. “When COVID happened, I’d just moved to London, so I ended up painting two collections of the lilies that grow by the water around there. It was like my homage to where I’m from.” As time has progressed, each series of paintings has become, as Zono puts it, “more zoomed in, but always with a landscape-y, floral element.”
“I could paint lilies every day, so I’m trying to strip them back. I’m using less colour and making each stroke meaningful. These are memories… fragments of flowers. I’m a pretty positive guy, I like bright colours, but I’m looking at this work as a series of chapters drawing on a theme. Darker and lighter.”
On the weekends Zono leaves his canvases be. “I try and treat it like a 9-5,” he says, “so the work can sit.” He might ride his bike around Hackney, hang out with friends, go to the pub and return with a souvenir. He’s started making music again. He’s recently begun delving deeper into colour theory — how the eye perceives; the effects of mixing and contrasting, and the messages paint can communicate.
In person Zono’s work feels deep, vibrant and personal. Fun, definitely, but also compelling. He loves de Kooning and the romance of those New York abstract expressionists. “I remember, as a kid, when you searched the word ‘artist’ on Google, those were the guys who came up. Everyone wearing crumpled suits, hanging out and living the artist life. I want to live the life.”
Words by: Finlay Renwick