Our last Breed presents… for this year.
We’ll be back with this series in Jan and are excited to share who we have lined up.
Thanks to all those who have taken part this year.
But for now…
Jonny Gent, artist and founder of Cabin Studio
Born in The Slow and Easy, a pub in Cheshire in 1976, Jonny learned to draw and paint early, and has kept moving ever since. After student years at Cheshire and Edinburgh schools of art, he lived and worked in studios in more than 20 countries, never staying in any of them for more than two years.
In his years as an artist, he has developed his own very distinct style, and been exhibited at galleries the world over, including at The Saatchi Gallery, Scottish National Gallery, and the Freud Museum. His work has also appeared in i-D, W Magazine and AnOther Magazine. He also regularly collaborates with Italian film-maker Luca Guadagnino on images for his film projects.
Beyond art, but not entirely, Jonny is co-founder of restaurant Sessions Art Club. More than just a restaurant, Sessions Art Club is also a bar, an art and performance space, and has an infinity pool upstairs, all housed in a Grade II* listed old courthouse building in Clerkenwell.
Following the success of Sessions Art Club, Jonny opened Boath House earlier this year. A 10-room hotel in a Georgian mansion set in the Highlands of Scotland, near the bay of Findhorn, it also has a 400-year-old walled garden complete with café, store and work studios. Boath House is intended as a sanctuary for creative people, with an artist residency programme offering space for artists of all kinds to take up residence.
Both Sessions Art Club and Boath House were projects set in motion by Cabin Studio, a group with a stated mission to ‘create spaces built on the pillars of art, food and supplies’, founded by Jonny.
Somehow, in the midst of all this activity, Jonny very kindly found the time to talk to us about these projects and more.
Did you know from a young age you were destined to be an artist?
I felt like I had a secret, a way of seeing and thinking about things and they felt special to me. I’m sure lots of children felt that way. I haven’t lost that way of seeing and looking.
Were you a frequent visitor to art galleries growing up?
No, quite the opposite. Music, art and culture was not part of my childhood. My brother and I sought this out. I was gasping for it by the time I reached 7 years old. My mother’s side of the family is Irish. The only music we would get would be our uncle singing a little at family gatherings. ‘Danny Boy’ on repeat.
I grew up in pubs, so the juke box was like Mecca to my brother and I.
I’m still not great with art galleries or festivals – I find it all rather overwhelming. I have to charge around an art gallery hitting four or five pieces at a time. I’m out the door in 15 minutes.
How would you describe yourself today?
Loose, watchful, and coiled.
You’ve had studios in different countries – which ones have stood out for you?
An old tobacco factory in Limoges, France, and my cabin in the Highlands. Had a great one in Monaco, too, opposite the Hermitage Hotel.
Who have been the major influences on your artistic style?
Joan of Arc, Van Gogh, Peggy Kilgannon, Townes Van Zandt, Willem de Kooning, Sergio Leone, Stan Lee, John Steinbeck, Basquiat, Spielberg, Charles Bukowski, Elmer Batters.
Music seems an important factor, can you tell us more about this?
I have an instant love for musicians. I see them as higher beings. My first album was ‘Born in the USA’ by Bruce Springsteen and it changed my whole world. Americana. It gave me the other. The denim and the flags. American girls and fast cars, the endless Saturday night. I was so desperate to leave England. I felt so homesick back then. I still do a little. It’s all linked to my chase and desire for fantasy. I haven’t looked into why I’m like that. Of course, there is a reason, I don’t know what it is, though.
Do you feel you’ve finally settled in London?
How did you come to set up Cabin Studio?
A feeling of being homesick for nowhere and wanting to create a space I felt comfortable in.
Why did you call it Cabin Studio?
It’s named after my studio in the Highlands that my children called Cabin.
How did Sessions Art Club come about?
It’s complicated. I think it was driven and came about through half a lifetime of painting and eating and always living above pubs and restaurants and moving and thinking about loneliness and sanctuary and traveling and always hunting for something romantic and that glimpse of it. Then it was about finding the building and, most importantly, the team and partners to make it happen.
Were you very much behind the look of the restaurant?
Yes, the look was about not designing, not doing anything – the inherited shell was so beautiful. It was a collective effort of Russ (SODA) and I, and we really wanted to do as little as possible. Simple leather banquets and an old bar from Ireland. The idea was not to decorate – I saw it as a gallery as much as a restaurant, so wanted the works to be positioned in that context. We also have an incredible sound system and live performance space that was set up by producer Jack McKeever, who has engineered and produced Lee “Scratch” Perry, Jim White and Rufus Wainwright.
Tell us about your intentions for The Boath House.
I don’t quite know yet, it changes daily, weekly. Essentially, it’s a place of refuge to eat and sleep and take a breath. To steal from Holland Cotter – I’m hoping it grasps the dream of art as a lived condition rather than a hoarded possession.
Are there any places you recommend for eating in London?
KILN always alone.
Black Axe Mangal.
Scotti’s Snack Bar – Clerkenwell.
Riva in Barnes.
Cup of tea at Foyles around 5pm.
Do you have more projects in mind for Cabin Studio?
Lots of projects. Making shoes and clothing and objects and building road signs and farming/growing more. I want to look at abandoned buildings in Ireland, Ibiza or in the hills of Lake Como and restore them. Not to pristine spaces, but to little monasteries of calm. I’d like to do more hotels. I love the concept of holding and looking after someone for 24 hours and what that means. I think about NYC lots, selfishly – the idea of a townhouse in the Upper East Side or a large house on Long Island – someplace to go and feel connected to something for a spell. And a collection of art, what a gift that would be to leave behind.
And is there a new Jonny Gent exhibition on the horizon?
My new collection of paintings will be shown at Marie Victoire Poliakoff’s Galerie Pixi, 95 Rue de Seine, Paris, curated by Adrian Dannatt and opening on 2 March 2023.