HIS face may be unfamiliar but his work almost certainly won’t be.
Jonathan Wilkinson’s two-tone geometric images of Sheffield have become as widespread in the city as they are distinctive over the last four years.
His unique takes on the likes of Park Hill flats and the old egg box Town Hall Extension seemingly hang everywhere from spit and sawdust pubs to leftfield galleries; from the Sheffield Scene gift shop to this writer’s living room (thanks Mum).
There’s someone somewhere in New York with a version of the old Roxy nightclub on their walls. There’s someone else in Egypt who ordered a picture of the Tinsley Cooling Towers.
Now the 33-year-old – who has previously shunned the limelight to let his straight lines do the talking – has launched his first ever solo exhibition with a new body of unseen work.
The collection of 11 pieces, called Britarama, keeps the geometry but there’s now more colour and – gasp! – less Sheffield.
“The whole Sheffield thing started by accident, really,” says Jonathan whose work is being shown at A Month Of Sundays gallery in Sharrow Vale Road, Sharrow, until October 1.
“The first thing I drew was the Cooling Towers back in 2007. It was to decorate a billboard near where I used to have a studio in Shalesmoor.
“I was graphic designing at the time and I thought the straight lines I used for that sort of work would look good.
“But as soon as it went up people started getting in touch asking if they could get a print.
“It was genuinely unexpected.”
From there, he drew other landmarks – including the wedding cake Registry Office and Castle Market – with each one gathering an increasing fan base. “I think it’s a very Sheffield thing,” says the soon-to-be-father-of-one of Meersbrook.
“I think Sheffielders like them because they are proud of their city and their identity, and these strike a chord.
“They show the beauty – or at least I hope they do – in something people perhaps walk past everyday.
“It was quite strange when I got those orders from New York and Egypt but I presume they’re probably ex-pats. It’s nice, though.”
The popularity, however, now means Jonathan wants to be more... “universal, might be the right word,” he considers.
“These new pieces are largely based on Sheffield buildings.
“One is inspired by Forge Masters, for example, and there’s another that’s based on a launderette in Banner Cross – but I wanted them to be less obviously a real place. Those places were just a starting point for creating something more from the imagination.
“Perhaps that might give them a more widespread appeal, I’m not sure. Like maybe you don’t need to come from Sheffield to appreciate these.”
The approach perhaps makes sense.
Jonathan himself was born in Leeds and grew up in Nottingham before moving to Sheffield 11 years ago to study Fine Arts at Sheffield Hallam University.
And it is also an approach that seems to have worked. With the exhibition now entering its second week, sales have been strong and feedback has been positive.
“The more popular they get, the more admin work I have to do,” concludes Jonathan.
“But I don’t mind staying up late and getting up early. It’s a small price to pay if people like your work.”
View more of Jonathan’s work at www.welivehere.co.uk and www.britarama.com