This is wood-governed work. Tree-entrusted. As trees grow slowly, dense with their decades, the work — the labour — of a woodcut demands time of the maker. The wood is subject and medium; a work of wood, through wood, for wood.
As trees have growth rings so this work moves towards the viewer, in growth rings of imagination and these lines live, circling out, out from the most precise detail — the bright shine in a bird's eye — to starlight on the rim of the world. In one leaf there is an entire tree and the artist's vision comprehends the tremendous in the tiny, seeing a world in the palm of a hand. Sometimes the sweetness of home is here, sometimes the sweeping of sky as the earth tucks itself into circles, nose under paw, tail curled round. Circles within circles, this work has a fractal quality as a human body becomes a whole landscape, a shoulder is a hill, a hand lithe as tree branches stretching to the air.
Boat or bird, lane or moon, there is a poetic simplicity at work here, the innocence of circles as if it reflects a yin-yang vision of black and white, each expressing its meaning by circling the presence of the other.
A violin wind in swing: a path which sings the land; a cup. Whatever his subject, the artist's mind glides easily to its beauty, the artist's eye knows that its true north is to pay attention. Ashworth's work has the gentle weight of truly tended things. His imagination circles an idea, the entire work held carefully in mind long before one blade makes one cut, and this long gaze pools into the artwork and pauses the viewer on the lovely inheld breath of delight at seeing a world deepened and softened, lifting and rising like bread or wings, hillsides or hope.
Jay Griffiths - an award-winning British writer and author of 'Wild: An Elemental Journey', 'Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time', 'Anarchipelago', 'A Love Letter from a Stray Moon' and 'Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape'.
With his woodcuts, Jonathan Ashworth offers what our fast-paced, fractious society most needs to experience: tenderness for life itself. It's there in his everyday scenes - the Bakehouse bearing the three-word poem "Life leaven love"; it's there in the timeless lore of Spring Dance; it's there in his simple, impactful calls for climate action. "Be gentle and be nice" is perhaps what Gandhi would have said to our predicament. We are lucky that Jonathan Ashworth says it so well.
Anna Simpson - Editor of Forum for the Future's 'Green Futures' and author of 'The Brand Strategist's Guide to Desire'
It is a daydream world of Jon Ashworth, a gentle world of reverie, lost in a moment of thought or action. Small gestures, small details framed with a writer’s eye. His [images] have a stillness, poised, nostalgic like a flash bulb photograph. Their contemporary edge comes from the background textures, the electrostatic of a modern existentialism, the fuzzy thought patterns, emanating an internal aura of Morse code, or Braille, lost in their lines of thought.
The weight of a wood engraving is often in the time, concentration and care that such detail demands and so it is little surprise that Time is everything in these prints. We see time poised in Ashworth’s imagery, time swallowed in the motion of action.
But written into each of these images, we also see what time means to us, it is presented as a gift, time taken in thoughtful preparation. It is a study not of still life, but of companionship.
Nick Hayes - London based illustrator, and author of 'The Rime Of The Modern Mariner', 'Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads', and 'Cormorance'.
Absolutely unbelievable woodcuts here from young artist and RCA grad Jonathan Ashworth, it’s so refreshing to see someone utilising such an age-old method of printing in such a modern style. His illustrations are sweet depictions of sleepy boys, loving couples, scrunched up duvets and old-fashioned bake houses and are printed using blocks of wood, carved out by the man himself. What’s so brilliant about woodblock carvers is that they could so easily just draw these images with pencils or pens, but they don’t: they go head-first and full throttle into the hard way without a second thought, and the results are as spectacular as these.
Liv Siddall - Writer, podcaster, editor of Rough Trade
Here we are then. There's been much to do, but with no further ado, The Biscuit Factory Foundation is brimful of pride to announce the winner of Young Artists of the Year 2011 as Jonathan Ashworth.
Jonathan Ashworth's woodcuts spoke to each of the judges – and, to underline the successful execution of his singular vision, they spoke to us all in a similar way. We were all touched by the tender crepuscular quality of his imagery, and were particularly impressed by the way that his craftsmanship works in perfect harmony with the imagery, displaying a similar deft and deceptively simple touch to consolidate the image-making. The work suggests an artist who is already on the way to finding his voice; one whose interest in the nostalgic and enchanting is heart-warming, but also has significant depths as the fractured narratives are undercut with the a subtle sense of loss and even possible malevolence. It is this precision with the nuances of universal human experiences that the judges all responded to, and which elevates Jonathan's work.
We also saw an artist whose work has a wide-ranging appeal. It is both accessible and sophisticated, and that is perhaps the most important and elusive trick for an emerging professional artist to have mastery of. It is to Jonathan's considerable credit that at this still burgeoning stage of his career he is able to command his craft to that degree.
Sam Knowles - Curator at The Biscuit Factory