Jonathan Michael Ray


A timeless contemporary

Jonathan Michael Ray (b.1984), is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Penzance, Cornwall. His studio practice includes sculpture, assemblage, photography, print and video. He often uses unconventional and historic materials including, yet not limited to, semi-precious stones, reclaimed stained glass, cyanotype, concrete, and found objects from the landscape.

Much of his artwork is connected to his surroundings, often referencing the history and environments of both man and nature. Ray peers beyond the surface of a purely physical existence, focuses on the overlooked and layers a new narrative with extraordinary effect.

Ray exhibits one of the most diverse yet coherent bodies of work in the emerging contemporary field. His concepts and executions continue to demonstrate new evolutions; while outstanding pieces in their own right, a coherent through-line can be drawn across all of his work from the previous decade.

28 May – 2 October 2022

TATE St Ives

Alongside an extensive showcase at Broomhill Estate, Jonathan is exhibiting an extraordinary collaboration at TATE st Ives, combining a selection of works by JMR with renowned Scottish born modernist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004). While separated by time, as well as the media and form their works take, both artists draw inspiration from the local landscape, exploring the idea that there is more to experience in nature than can be found on the surface.

This exhibition brings together two artists who share an interest in the geological and built environments of West Cornwall and beyond, their works excavate landscape through civil histories, environmental phenomena, and natural and man-made forms.

Visit TATE ST IVES’ information page about the exhibition

Multilayered histories

Not really now, Not anymore

Produced during a four-month study residency in Lisbon, these two sculptures (or sculptural works), of engraved and gilded limestone, examine the multilayered histories and fictions of artefacts and places.

Limestone and paint, each panel has the following dimensions:

  • 40cm high
  • 20cm wide
  • 10cm deep


Beggers Belief

Inspired by post-war restorations on church windows, craftsmen utilised whatever was left and could be used to attempt to rebuild the lost motifs destroyed. The work highlights how past narratives are broken and reassembled, like history, events and stories are reinterpreted as they are morphed, miss-interpreted or deliberately adapted in documentation across generations. Built with deliberate disorder and balance set in the golden ratio aspect, embracing how an order is still found in chaos.

Reclaimed stained glass, lead, oak, backlit LED panel and framed.

Thirdbase Studios

Pedestrian Scriptures

This work was produced during a four-month study residency at Thirdbase Studios in Lisbon. Comprised of carvings found in the streets and historic sites made across generations, building a montage of scriptures with significance to those who left them. Through the act of graffiti, everyday people immortalise a memory to pass on to another and bring closure to a narrative that may only relate to themselves. Each of the panels is;

  • 61.5cm high
  • 46.5cm wide
  • Framed and set behind 90% non-reflective museum glass.
  • Cyanotype on paper, aluminium – 2019

It aint jus behynt us its all roun us

Mono No Aware

This work comes from a series In Mono No Aware, Ray makes use of a wide range of past and present-time objects, material and processes, brought together in strangely familiar modes of display.

  • Stained glass fragments, lead, oak and chain
  • 71.5cm high
  • 30cm wide
  • Leaded glass without gibbet

A fresh perspective

Synthetic Blue III

Looking at patterns, textures, forces and networks in the natural world. Plastic has been layered over the paper to create the impression on this work, what is notorious in our modern world has been made a thing of beauty. It is not the use of plastic which puts it firmly in the unwanted category but the disposal and pollution, a material with so much benefit to the world has been squandered. This work implies a level of admiration is deserved and perhaps with a new perspective the material could once again be looked upon as a thing of beauty.

  • 58cm high
  • 77cm wide
  • 3cm deep
  • Cyanotype on paper and frame
  • Framed and set behind 90% non-reflective museum glass.

Following the seam No5

This series was developed whilst roaming the abandoned mining sites in Cornwall, following the natural undulations and man-made excavations Jonathan traced back the routes of our ancestors, in search of new prosperity. The engraving puncher’s the tough exterior of the cornish granite leaving a sedimentary vein across the surface, which echos the composition in the photograph mounted above. The work reveals the surface and beneath, human intervention is apparent across nature in the composition with power lines cutting across the skyline with the ant-like tunnels beneath.

  • Granite, Ink, Silver Gelatine photographs, steel
  • 42.5cm high
  • 32.5cm wide
  • 3.5cm deep

National Sculpture Prize 2021

A large boulder the size of a small boulder

“The work is a serpentine stone split apart, revealing its hidden message for the first time in 600 million years from now revealing protest slogans, political statements, media headlines and memes from around the world throughout the year 2020.

As time goes by, 2020 and everything we have experienced and witnessed throughout the year, will become just another year of human history.

Remembered for a short time, debated and studied for a little bit longer, recorded in the archives for a while after this, and then, very gradually, it will be all but forgotten.

Perhaps one day in approximately 600 million year’s time some record of this year may be rediscovered and quizzically examined by someone or something, perhaps they will decide this discovery to be important and will display their findings in a similar way to a how a museum or an encyclopaedia displays a fossil or stone-age memorial today.”

Artist background

Curriculum Vitae

Selected CV

2014-2016: MFA Fine Art Media, Slade School of Art, University College London
2004-2007: BA Hons Fine Art, Nottingham Trent University
2003-2004: Foundation Diploma in Art & Design, Bucks Chilterns University College

2022: Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Jonathan Michael Ray, TATE ST IVES, St Ives, UK
2022: FLOCK, Bo Lee and Workman, Bruton, UK
2021: A Very Generous Space, Hastings Contemporary, Hastings, UK
2021: Gathering, Haarlem Artspace, Wirksworth, UK
2021: Mono No Aware, Auction House, Redruth, UK
2021: The Artists’ Oracle, White Crypt Gallery, London, UK
2021: Dreamlands part 1, OHSH, London, UK
2021: Meet me at the cemetery gates, Art of Grief, Penzance, UK
2021: National Sculpture Prize 2021 Finalists, Broomhill Estate, Devon, UK
2021: Gathering, Grays Wharf, Penryn, UK
2020: InRoads, Galleria Ramo, Como, Italy
2020: 3.1, bo.lee gallery, London, UK
2019: Unbounded, Eden Project, Bodelva, UK
2019: Bury Me With It, Newlyn Art Gallery, Newlyn, UK
2019: The Cave and the Sky, Thirdbase, Lisbon, Portugal
2019: Moor Way Bones, Porthmeor Studios, St Ives, UK
2019: New Media Art, CICA Museum, Seoul, South Korea
2018: “There is nothing whatever do not look like what it was since I can remember”, Porthmeor Studios, St Ives, UK
2018: Surfaces, Loosen Art, Rome, Italy
2018: It sounds like it weighs a ton, Garden Walk, London, UK
2017: Material Light, Kochi Biennial, India
2017: Beneath and Between, White Crypt Gallery, London, UK
2016: Clifford Chance Postgraduate Printmaking Exhibition, Clifford Chance, London, UK
2016: Floating Worlds, Safehouse1, London, UK
2016: A Cave With A View, Charlton Gallery, London, UK
2016: Making Do, Slade School of Fine Art UCL, UK
2015: Imagine, Londonewcastle Arts Program, London, UK
2013: Le Studio Show, Galerie Bifurski, Montréal, Canada

Artist Residencies and awards:
2021: National Sculpture Prize Finalist, Broomhill Estate, Devon, UK
2021: Master Class 2021, Zabludowicz Collection, London, UK
2019: Hogchester Arts Residency Programme, Charmouth, UK
2019: Thirdbase Studio Residency, Lisbon, Portugal
2018-19: Porthmeor Studios Graduate Award supported by European Regional Development Fund via Cultivator Cornwall, UK
2016: Hong Kong Baptist University Artist in Residence, HKBU AVA Kaitak, Hong Kong
2016: Slade Summer School Artist in Residence, Slade School of Fine Art UCL, UK