Jonathan Ogden: Worship as Process


A look into the studio and creative process of the internationally renowned painter-sewer.



Jonni Cheatwood's giant canvases line the walls of his space in a warehouse-converted-studio-artist-community. He's hunched forward on a wooden work table with a calm, casual smile. His all-black outfit is interrupted by random pops of color, from the paint scuffed on his clothes to the paint that covers every inch of his workspace. Color is everywhere—the signs of someone whose been at his craft for years.

Cheatwood's "thing" (as he describes it) is to sew patches of fabric together, making the backdrop for his painted work. He prints on these fabrics—from nostalgic photographs by his wife's grandfather to old graphics to Gucci patters. As we discussed, 17 different fabrics made up one of his current canvases. His paintwork is Cy Twombly, Pollock-esque; a refined-graffiti thickly plastered in perfect chaos.

It's clear, Cheatwood's work is not "Christian"; at least not in any direct sense of the word, nor in its symbolic implications. For Cheatwood, the action of painting is the act of faith.

"As far as my actual [paintings], I don't know if I see a one-to-one connection to God. Like, you can't see [my painting], and be like 'oh there's a cross in there.' But the act of painting, that's a reflection of my faith."

"Action" becomes apparent as Cheatwood begins the creative process. He mixes some white-paint on a large glass panel. He cakes a brush in the mixture and walks up to one of the canvases, applying methodically. He walks to a second canvas, painting there as well. The process repeats, again and again, Cheatwood walking from canvas-to-canvas in a rhythmic theatrical dance. He ends up applying paint to six different canvases in total.

"It's just my 'thing,' I gotta be working on like six paintings at once. I don't know; it's just my thing."

When asked if he feels "called" to painting.

"Well I think just making work is what I'm supposed to be doing. I don't feel called to painting specifically. I feel the calling to do work, if that makes any sense."

"Everyday changes. Today I have to build frames and stuff like that, and some days it's just stretching canvas. Some days it's only sewing. Some days it's going to the fabric store. Some days is getting art supplies and doing administrative stuff, which I hate doing but, yeah, there's really no set day. Every day changes."

There's a flow to Jonni Cheatwood. Flow in his ease of jumping from building frames, to sewing fabric, to painting. Flow in his ease of painting from one canvas to the next. But, also, flow in the sense that he can come off as so care-free and, at the same time, be so dedicated to the process of "doing."

"[Painting] is about repetition, but I'm also just to the point where I'm curious to see what next and then from there, like the repetition that happens after that. And so it's just, I don't like using the word evolve, but like, it's kind of like evolving—I want to see how much deeper I can go as an artist."



Learn more at: https://www.jonnicheatwood.com

Words and Images: Bryan Ye-Chung

A discussion with Jonathan Ogden—the musician, artist, and producer from Manchester, UK—on calling, creativity, and how he experiences worship as process.



Jonathan Ogden is calm, cool, and collected. He has got the vibe of that friend who always has lo-fi beats playing in the background. His own music is unique, uncategorizable—somewhere around Nujabes meets J Dilla meets Bon Iver meets Studio Ghibli meets Jesus. It is a sound that has developed over time through process and play. An example, when speaking of his Seasons EPs:

"I just enjoyed that process of trying to convey season through sound. I think that was a light bulb moment when I did those EPs because I realized that they were all so different but also had a consistency across them too. I tried so many different things, but also realized there's a consistent thread through it all, and I was like, 'oh, okay, maybe that is my sound'".

When asked about his relationship to the idea of calling:

"I grew up in a church context that spoke a lot about calling; I was a pastor's kid. [So] I used to think it had to be more defined. I'd hear all these stories of missionaries that had this dream where they saw a very specific thing and were like, 'Okay that's what I'm supposed to be doing,' and I was waiting for that moment. But for me, I'd say it was more like unearthing a calling rather than just receiving this big specific dream or vision. And for me, I've always felt 'calling' in the sense of my life being about worship and everything else flowing from that core purpose."

When asked to delve deeper into the notion of worship:

"I felt like I had to compartmentalize things before and be like, this one is a worship song and this one is an instrumental song and this one is a lo-fi beat—and now I see it not as the finished product itself but that the actual process can be worship. So even if I'm just working in software or trying to figure out what this chord is or trying to manipulate a sound in a certain way, it's like that process of craft and refining and taking the sound and trying to shape it over time, I see that as a worship process as well as the end result of a song."

It appears Ogden is unearthing foundational ideas on worship. Somewhere along the way worship became culturally dominated by, first—music only; and then within that, music had to have a specific sound, a specific lyric, a specific chord progression, a specific outcome, a specific product. Ogden is questioning all of those things. Worship as bigger, vaster, wider. Worship as an amalgamation of many sounds from many places. Worship as a creative process. In that way, he's similar to other such creatives of the same ilk like Victoria Park, Adaobi Ugoagu, Artificial Christian, Jonathan Todryk, Jonathan Martin, just to name some.

Even if the vernacular is evolving, Ogden has a clear essence that presides over his notions of worship.

"One of my favorite passages is Revelation 4, or pretty much any time in the Bible it mentions the scene of the holiness of God and the throne. I've been fascinated with that scene for a long time and I think one of the things I love is seeing the way that angels and the living creatures and all these beings around God's throne, respond to who God is. And I see that as their worship expression. To me that is what worship is—it's just what our heart does in response to seeing who God is and seeing something that is that beautiful. That is what I want to do with my life—just respond."

It is from this core place that Ogden has been able to explore many other creative mediums. While he would describe songwriting and music-making as his core artistic expressions, Ogden also designs (he designs most album covers himself) and co-founded Set Sail, a space for Christian artists and creative people to come together and feel encouraged, inspired, and educated. And he collaborates frequently with other musicians, such as Joe Bae and Anh Thai.

"I think there's something really beautiful about seeing what's going on around you as well and your peers and other people who are out there doing their thing, and thinking, 'how can I support what they do rather than just building my own thing'".

Community, the sharing of creative experiences, supporting one another, building each other up: these too, are experiences of worship.

Jonathan Ogden is uncategorizable, perhaps not just because of his taste in sound, but also his willingness to dabble, to push boundaries, to explore, to discover, to see all creative things and all creative processes against the backdrop of worship; of response.

"There are so many creative people out there. Not just musicians but designers and filmmakers and animators and dancers and all these different creative expressions that don't necessarily get huge amounts of attention in churches. Sometimes our view of art and creativity can be quite limited, and I'm just excited to see more ways artists can express their creativity even outside of a Sunday morning service, and see that as part of God's kingdom in a beautiful way."



Ogden's newest EP, Song From Home, is scheduled to release April 2nd.

Words: Bryan Ye-Chung
Images: Jaytrnn

A discussion with Jonathan Ogden—the musician, artist, and producer from Manchester, UK—on calling, creativity, and how he experiences worship as process.



Jonathan Ogden is calm, cool, and collected. He has got the vibe of that friend who always has lo-fi beats playing in the background. His own music is unique, uncategorizable—somewhere around Nujabes meets J Dilla meets Bon Iver meets Studio Ghibli meets Jesus. It is a sound that has developed over time through process and play. An example, when speaking of his Seasons EPs:

"I just enjoyed that process of trying to convey season through sound. I think that was a light bulb moment when I did those EPs because I realized that they were all so different but also had a consistency across them too. I tried so many different things, but also realized there's a consistent thread through it all, and I was like, 'oh, okay, maybe that is my sound'".

When asked about his relationship to the idea of calling:

"I grew up in a church context that spoke a lot about calling; I was a pastor's kid. [So] I used to think it had to be more defined. I'd hear all these stories of missionaries that had this dream where they saw a very specific thing and were like, 'Okay that's what I'm supposed to be doing,' and I was waiting for that moment. But for me, I'd say it was more like unearthing a calling rather than just receiving this big specific dream or vision. And for me, I've always felt 'calling' in the sense of my life being about worship and everything else flowing from that core purpose."

When asked to delve deeper into the notion of worship:

"I felt like I had to compartmentalize things before and be like, this one is a worship song and this one is an instrumental song and this one is a lo-fi beat—and now I see it not as the finished product itself but that the actual process can be worship. So even if I'm just working in software or trying to figure out what this chord is or trying to manipulate a sound in a certain way, it's like that process of craft and refining and taking the sound and trying to shape it over time, I see that as a worship process as well as the end result of a song."

It appears Ogden is unearthing foundational ideas on worship. Somewhere along the way worship became culturally dominated by, first—music only; and then within that, music had to have a specific sound, a specific lyric, a specific chord progression, a specific outcome, a specific product. Ogden is questioning all of those things. Worship as bigger, vaster, wider. Worship as an amalgamation of many sounds from many places. Worship as process.

Even if the vernacular is evolving, Ogden has a clear essence that presides over his notions of worship.

"One of my favorite passages is Revelation 4, or pretty much any time in the Bible it mentions the scene of the holiness of God and the throne. I've been fascinated with that scene for a long time and I think one of the things I love is seeing the way that angels and the living creatures and all these beings around God's throne, respond to who God is. And I see that as their worship expression. To me that is what worship is—it's just what our heart does in response to seeing who God is and seeing something that is that beautiful. That is what I want to do with my life—just respond."

It is from this core place that Ogden has been able to explore many other creative mediums. While he would describe songwriting and music-making as his core artistic expressions, Ogden also designs (he designs most album covers himself) and co-founded Set Sail, a space for Christian artists and creative people to come together and feel encouraged, inspired, and educated. And he collaborates frequently with other musicians, such as Joe Bae and Anh Thai.

"I think there's something really beautiful about seeing what's going on around you as well and your peers and other people who are out there doing their thing, and thinking, 'how can I support what they do rather than just building my own thing'".

Community, the sharing of creative experiences, supporting one another, building each other up: these too, are experiences of worship.

Jonathan Ogden is uncategorizable, perhaps not just because of his taste in sound, but also his willingness to dabble, to push boundaries, to explore, to discover, to see all creative things and all creative processes against the backdrop of worship; of response.

"There are so many creative people out there. Not just musicians but designers and filmmakers and animators and dancers and all these different creative expressions that don't necessarily get huge amounts of attention in churches. Sometimes our view of art and creativity can be quite limited, and I'm just excited to see more ways artists can express their creativity even outside of a Sunday morning service, and see that as part of God's kingdom in a beautiful way."



Ogden's newest EP, Song From Home, is scheduled to release April 2nd.

Words: Bryan Ye-Chung
Images: Jaytrnn

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