Lucy Bell is proud to present the first joint exhibition of John Thornton and Hiroko Enseki, John Thornton is known internationally for his surreal approach and intelligent eye, his line and understanding of the female form, while Japanese artist Hiroko Enseki explores the fine balance and colour of delicate forms within her floral studies and still lives.
John Thornton was born 2nd May 1946 in Sydney Australia going to Woolwich Primary School and then Hunters Hill High School.
He got a job delivering photographs at Bruce Minnett’s Studio, this was the introduction to his beloved photography which as he says “Photography is true love of what you have seen and felt and you lay yourself bare as your love is there for other to see”. While on deliveries for the studio he spent as much time as possible in book shops, browsing the photographic books captivated by photographs of Brassai, Weegee, Man Ray, Edward Weston, Wynne Bullock and other famous photographers.
In 1967 with Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War conscription loomed, which would have seen him spending his 21st birthday ducking bullets, so he ran away to South Africa, saying “Fuck that for a game of soldiers” and he boarded the ship Southern Cross bound for Durban, joining other surfers on a quest to find the perfect wave shown in Bruce Brown’s film The Endless Summer at Cape St Francis in South Africa. He survived by taking surfing photographs on his beaten up Pentax, and writing articles about his surfing trips from Durban to Cape Town, and then up the west coast into what was then South West Africa, which is now Namibia.
Deciding to go to London, as he stepped off the boat in Southampton, in a freezing English winter, with trainers sinking into snow, he thought, “What… am I doing here”. Moving into a flat in Lancaster Gate with a revolving population of numerous people, he spent time photographing the street markets and parks of London. After shooting an advertising portfolio he found that some people loved it and one person loved it so much he was thrown out of the advertising agency, with the art buyer calling his images “Weird”… Now that was someone who really loved his photography.
It was in the early 1970’s that he moved into his first studio, which was in Turnmill Street, and subsequently he moved to his own studio at Edith Grove in Chelsea. As an advertising photographer his client list was extremely impressive, working for many international blue-chip companies from Bacardi, Singapore Airlines, Benson & Hedges, Toyota, Barclays, L’Oreal, British Airways, Mary Quant, Smirnoff, Wrangler and Levis and the list goes on and on his photographs won a myriad of advertising awards, including the coveted New York Art Directors Club Gold Award, 24 Awards of Excellence from CA in Los Angeles, 3 D&AD London Silver Awards, Cannes Lion de Bronze and many other international awards.
Some one once said, “That Thornton has had more awards than David Bailey has had hot dinners”.
It was whilst shooting these advertising images that John craved creative freedom he was drawn to surrealism, inspired by Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali, Giorgo de Chirico, Luis Bunuel, Andre Breton and photographers such as Guy Bourdain, Bill Silano, Jean Loup Sieff, Art Kane and Duanne Michals.
He then embarked on producing his distinctive “Surreal Erotic Images” gaining inspiration from all areas, be it visual, the written word or something he had seen, first making drawings before taking the photographs. Many books and publications globally featured his images which where shown at his exhibitions in London, Paris, Tokyo, Geneva, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Zurich, Antwerp, Bologna, Milan, and Cadaques in Spain where Salvador Dali, John’s deity lived, visiting his exhibition Dali commented about his photographs “Madnifico…Fantastico” Besides these exhibitions he has had shows at Home House London, The Sanctum Soho Hotel, Brasa Broadway House, The House of the Nobleman London, Getty Gallery London, Christies London and Forman’s Smokehouse Gallery, with his images on permanent show at The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston Texas besides this many of his photographs in private collections worldwide.
John Thornton has exhibited in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Bologna, Geneva, Milan, Paris, Tokyo, Zurich and London.
“There are numerous other stories about John Thornton, and where he came from, some claim he was found as a baby floating on a bamboo raft off his native Australia, and was brought up by aborigines, and they taught him all he knows about photography. All we know is that his images are truly unique” ~ Molly Parkin at Variety Club Photographic Auction St Pancras Hotel”
“I have never considered being a photographer is a job, that’s why I can happily say that I have never had a job” ~ John Thornton.
— Quotes re John Thornton
When visiting John’s exhibition in Cadaques, Spain,
Salvador Dali said of his images. “Superb………..Fantastic”.
“Long live commercial photography, a sector often scorned by the sworn advocates and acolytes of so called Fine Art Photography. Commercial demands, in the worlds of publishing and advertising, have in fact been the starting point of some of the most exciting and inventive photographic images in recent years. John’s photographs were included in a sale organised by Sotheby’s and the stream of his images which he has produced since vindicates his selection for that pioneering sale of contempory work”
Philippe Garner. Sotheby’s.“Ideas, humour and high photographic technique makes John Thornton my favourite photographer”
Gunter Sachs.“It is difficult, if not impossible, to describe the world of John Thornton in a word, or in a single paragraph. How is it possible for him to create the photographs that he produces, where does he have that power to create a wonderland that he creates. The images that he produced for Trio were awarded a number of prizes in both Japan and Germany. The next time I see John Thornton, I hope to pursue just what untold truth lies deeply in his work, not that I expect to be successful.
Kenji Yamashita. Art Director. Dentsu Advertising Japan.“Inspiration, wit, creativity, superb technical skill and incredible sense of humour would be words to describe the photography of John Thornton. But verbal statements are hardly the right means to interpret the excellence of his work. This should be done by simply forgetting everything we have seen before and let ourselves be overwhelmed by the sheer power of his visual language.”
H.P Schmid. Nikon Photo Gallery. Zurich Switzerland. This return to special processes, encouraged by Man Ray and Otto Steinert but rejected by photography’s purists, multiplied at the beginning of the 1970s. They took on various forms, of which some were not immediately obvious. This was the case for example with the use of the basics of instant photography, notably the SX-70 process, for creative ends. Most of the great photographers, across all schools of photography, tried their hand at it, including Mary Ellen Mark, Walker Evans, Hans Gedda, Ralph Gibson, Andre Kertesz, Helmut Newton, Duane Michals, Paul de Nouijer, Alan Porter, Lucas Samaras, John Thornton and Christian Vogt. Histoire Mondiale de la photographie en couleurs. Hachette Realites. France.
Enseki was born in 1980 in Tokyo and spent her formative years in Thailand attending the International School Bangkok and now shares her time between London and Tokyo.
In 2002, Enseki started experimenting with her father’s camera whilst studying for her first degree, BA International Education at Tokyo Gakugei University. In 2003, she went to London to study photography at the University of Westminster and in 2007 completed her second degree in BA Photographic Arts.
Also in 2003, Enseki won her first award, the Corporation of London Special Award, at the Picture Editors Awards, which marked the first professional acclaim of her talent. In 2008, she won awards at the PX3 Prix De La Photographie Paris and more recently in 2012, at the International Photography Awards.
Specialising in Still Life, Enseki has developed a style that is clearly identifiable as her own with a strong sense of composition and mood, which has delighted many. For over a decade she has exhibited regularly and has continued to delight audiences and collectors alike.
Since Enseki first started using Hasselblad film cameras at university she has been a devotee and for the last two years has been working closely with Hasselblad.