Local hero
An artist’s guide to London, with Jonathan Lawes
By Aleks Cvetkovic
back to all articles

Jonathan Lawes is an artist and printmaker based in Peckham, south east London. He moved to London in 2018 following nine years abroad, and in two short years he’s made a name for himself on the capital’s indie art scene. Today, he’s known for his beguiling abstract prints, his organic approach to composition, his graphic lines and his deft use of colour.

He’s been a full-time printmaker for two-and-a-half years, but has worked on the art scene all his professional life. Like many of the most engaging creatives, he got into art young. “My love of art took hold in the final few years of my secondary education, when I was about 16-years-old,” he tells me. “A new art teacher joined my school and she transformed the practice completely – it was the only lesson I’d go to early and stay late for. I went to a very academic school, so this didn’t fit with their overall outlook, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

In the course of his career, Jonathan has followed his gut to hone his craft, picking up wisdom that many other artisans would doubtless find useful to hear along the way. “There’s big difference between studying and training – and to make it you really need a bit of both behind you,” he says. “Nowadays, I find that lots of aspiring artists skip on their Foundation Course, but I’d highly recommend sticking with this; it gave me the time to figure out a long-term path.”

“From my Foundation Course in Bournemouth, I took a BA in Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds University, which is where I really fell in love with the screen printing process. Following my degree, I took on placements in London, Amsterdam and ended up in Berlin. Studying taught me the essentials, but these years of on-the-job training in the design world were possibly even more important to me.”

Today, Jonathan works out of a print studio called Sonsoles, in Peckham, with a close community of other artists surrounding him. It’s a working environment that’s conducive to the “freedom and fluidity” with which he approaches his abstract print style. It’s also given him a clear perspective on why artisans need the support of consumers, no matter their craft.

“Consumerism is, in my view, way out of hand – and it’s a problem. Working directly with artisans avoids fuelling big machines and offers much more personal interaction. In art terms, you’ll be investing in creativity and in original works of art, instead of mass-produced items that aren’t quite so special, and that drive down prices.”
— Jonathan Lawes

As you might imagine, Jonathan’s insider’s guide to London focuses on his fellow artists, and on independent restaurants, shops and galleries. “I love living in London”, he says, “being based south of the river I do sometimes forget where I live. The city is huge, and I have to venture into the West End to remember where I am.

“There’s always so much going on, and at this stage in my career it’s a great place to be with so many other creatives and opportunities around me,” he says. Long may that continue.

Jonathan’s London

Kudu is an amazing South African restaurant near the Queens Road in Peckham. It’s my favourite local eatery. It’s also just opened a cocktail bar, Smokey Kudu, right next to the station, which is great for chilled drink.

Forza Win a super Italian restaurant, also in Peckham. They have a rooftop wine bar too, called Forza Wine.

Hoi Polloi is the bistro at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. It’s great for brunch on a Sunday, and the restaurant hosts a string quartet, which serenades people while they eat. It’s got a great vibe going on.

London Shell Company runs boat trips from Little Venice up to Camden in north London and back along the Regents Canal. It’s a very underrated way to get a sense of the city. Especially if you want to see beyond the West End. Go for the dinner cruise and tuck into some great seafood dishes.

Whitecube is my favourite gallery to visit, with branches in Bermondsey and Mason’s Yard, and an exhibition schedule that’s always changing. Recent highlights include Sarah Morris and Anselm Kiefer.

Insidestore in Tufnell Park is my favourite interiors shop. It sells superb furniture from independent design studios and tons of accessories. It also runs regular design workshops, if you like to get hands-on.

Att Pynta offers Scandinavian interiors galore from its showroom near London Bridge. The team also works from the Bussey building in Peckham, close to my studio.

Albam is an independent men’s clothing label in Soho, which makes contemporary casualwear with close attention paid to fabrics and ethical manufacturing. It’s always a great inspiration for colours too.

Offcut Barbers in Camberwell is the best barber shop in town! Attentive, friendly service and the guys are a pleasure to talk to. I highly recommend them.

Blackheath is a lovely little part of south east London. Very underrated. Walk from there over to Greenwich and make a day of it exploring.

Richmond Park my favourite getaway from city life – without leaving the city. It’s a place to clear your head. The wildlife never ceases to impress, either. It’s full of deer and stags. I’d say it’s the perfect dose of fresh air.


Learn more about Jonathan and his work at jonathanlawes.com

(Photography by Tom Griffiths)

Related Articles