JON DENARO tinkered with making “weird” objects from a young age, especially when his air force dad was away and he had access to his shed.
But he wasn’t always headed for a career as a sculptor: he’d studied to be a town planner before joining the air force and studying engineering.
“I think I went to the military to make myself something real,” he says.
“[But] I got to a point where I looked around and thought…I don’t fit in here.”
His preferred medium is found objects, whether old metal picked up during bush trips or old painted timber found in shipyards—bits and pieces he reshapes into delicate sculptures.
His muse is Dick Van Dyke’s tinkering inventor character in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
“He made weird things…I think it’s what I have become,” the 52-year-old says with a smile.
Talking to Denaro, sitting in the lush and semi-wild garden of his Hamilton Hill home, it’s hard to imagine him in the blokey world of the air force.
His rangy frame is full of energy despite lounging in a garden chair, his sculpor’s hands, long and slender, are rarely still as he enthuses about his work.
“I think what makes us want to be in the ocean, on the ocean, is because we have all that in us,”
He and partner Bec Juniper bought the house a few years ago, transforming the old cottage into the sort of sprawling, eclectic abode often associated with artists.
Denaro and Juniper’s works are strewn about with abandon, and there are works by fellow artists, such as Theo Koning, to be seen.
He has had his fair share of commissions from corporations, developers and local councils, including Burswood Casino, along with Margaret River, Melville and Busselton councils.
They are lucrative, but with his latest solo exhibition Biomimic he’s turning his back on public art, “[which] is very limiting here. They are not at the point to say you are a good artist, do what you like.
“I want to express my sculpture,” Denaro says passionately, stressing the “my”.
Biomimic is a new world view as we leave the era of communication, he says.
“We are entering the biological era…We are going to be heavily influenced by biology.”
There’s a strong connection between the sea and the human body and Biomimic represents the micro-organisms found in the humans that bear a striking resemblance to those in the ocean.
“I think what makes us want to be in the ocean, on the ocean, is because we have all that in us,” Denaro says.
Biomimic is on at Linton and Kay Galleries, St George’s Terrace, Perth, March 11 to 25.