Nashville Visual Artists-John Perry

John Perry makes works of art that speak the story of all the things in our world and the spaces they contain. His process is almost as intriguing as the work itself. I got to learn more about John's work when I visited his studio.

What is the theme of your work?

It’s about the narrative that is naturally found in visual composition-the organization and design of visual elements. For example, when two elements are against each other, spatial tension is created, and spatial tension could result in feelings of discomfort, or on the opposite side of the spectrum in feelings of intimacy.-human emotions. So in the non-representational work I do, abstract elements are narrative and represent something. The placement of elements of what’s in front, what’s behind, figure/ground experimentation etc in the work can generate a sense of history which is also creating narrative. It’s all a metaphor for how things in nature respond to each other; the pairing of opposite things into combinations that are powerful. I think a lot of times we miss what is powerful and beautiful, and so I try to bring attention to these things. I use paint to explore what I’m learning about the world.

The mark making of my process varies from using the palette knife in order to scrape paint on the surface to allowing the paint to freeze and thaw which creates shards and crystals of color to using a leaf blower to blast large movements from one end of the piece to the other.

What inspires you to do your work?

Being outside in nature and seeing the beauty in natural things inspires me to find beauty in the process of painting. I’m inspired by the patterns I find in nature and also how things relate when they’re next to each other, the juxtaposition of elements. That tension is very interesting and can be reunderstood in a multitude of ways depending on its context.

What are the goals for your artwork?

I want to make paintings that are both beautiful and challenging, because the story I am trying to tell is that we are living in a world that is complicated but beautiful. I feel like I’m still exploring that story and trying to discover it. I hope people walk away from my work seeing the world a little differently, that they hear the story that I’m trying to tell. Share a little bit of what I love about that world. I believe art is capable of that. If I can accomplish that, I will feel that I’ve accomplished a huge goal.

What are your thoughts on the visual artist community in Nashville?

I’m excited about what’s happening for the visual arts in Nashville, lots of creative people are moving here and this is giving the city a huge surge of energy. I’m excited to be part of the artist conversation in Nashville, and I’m excited to see what happens for the visual arts in the next ten years.

Learn more about John's work at