Smoron The Stone Departer: Jonas Ropponen

Smoron The Stone Departer: Jonas Ropponen

In his new exhibition at the PCA Gallery, Jonas Ropponen’s latest works are graced with the presence of sorcerer/alter ego, Smoron.

20 February, 2024
In Exhibitions,
Printmaking, Q&A


Jonas Ropponen, We are Worms with Great Articulation, 2020, charcoal and pencil, 76cm x 56cm, courtesy of artist.


Jonas Ropponen, Skipping Stone, 2023, monotype with offset stencils and polymer relief, 76cm x 56cm, courtesy of artist.

Jonas Ropponen, Sagnal, 2024, aquatint, line etching and dypoint, paper: 49cm x 38cm, image; 20cm x 15cm, edition of 9, courtesy of artist.

Jonas Ropponen, Smoron and the Orb 2022, charcoal and pencil, 76cm x 56cm, courtesy of artist.

Jonas Ropponen, The Stone Departer, 2023, monotype with offset stencils and polymer relief, 76cm x 56cm, courtesy of artist.

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for this exhibition project?

A: I make work about an alter ego character called Smoron. Smoron is a slightly acerbic, quirky sorcerer who has been alive since the Ice Age. I have made work via other alter egos over the last twenty years, but Smoron pushes my work towards darker, more supernatural modalities.

Working with Smoron feels peaceful, freeing and expansive, not like I’m trying to forefront or validate anything, or make work ‘about identity’. Smoron is probably tied to a receded part of myself – the Scandinavian foreigner who likes forests and quietude, and who has lost family connections as well as his strength in his first language. A few people have mentioned that Smoron reminds them of the character, Death in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. I do like the melancholic Edvard Munch also, so, yes, let’s say Smoron has Nordic provenance.

I include text in my prints, sometimes as paragraph blocks, other times as hand-stamped moveable type. In the narrative that I have included in my monotypes, Smoron is described as an ancient being who managed to free himself from bondage of life within a rock as the Ice Age was ending. It feels like I’m developing a dark fairy tale or saga when working with Smoron.

I like colour, but the part of me aligned with Smoron enjoys a gothic, neo-medieval aesthetic – black flowing robes, magical weapons, incantations and symbols.  As a mage, Smoron works sorcery, and I find meditative methods of Western ritual magical traditions potent for their capacity to induce visionary experience, which I value. An inspiration to my work has been the British early twentieth century artist, Austin Osman Spare, who not only was a fantastic drawer, but an occultist. As part of his magical visual art practice, Spare developed a unique method of making sigils. He made these magical symbols through writing out intents, reducing the phrases to the base consonants, combining and abstracting the resultant forms, and then ‘sending’ them during trance. In my etchings and monoprints, I feature sigils that I made during meditative ritual practices in a similar fashion. I like to think these have helped to keep my exhibition project charged to my liking.

Q: How did the artwork selection take place?

A: The charcoal drawing project began during the height of the Pandemic and partly reflects the interiorising process of isolation. I intended to complete this series for a solo show, and am glad to honour it with a show at the PCA.

I made 10 monoprints but have selected 5 for the show. Two versions of each monoprints were made. The second pull included residual ink on the acrylic plates from the first pull with alterations and further ink manipulation. I selected the work that displayed the most pleasing visual rhythm

I’ve launched three editions of etchings to complement the non-editioned monoprints. I worked on a number of plates using automatic mark-making and symbol design until I was satisfied with the results. I framed 1/9 edition for the show using 8mm deep mountboard and a black frame to match the tonality of the show. I wanted these three to be attractive objects – talismans.

Q: How does the exhibition manifest – what do visitors experience?

A: The vibe of the show is gothic, the prints and charcoal drawings are monochromatic. I’ve used photos of me dressed up as Smoron as the basis of the works. My mage friend is shown wandering through mythical landscapes based partly on my recent travels through Scandinavia, and on urban environments experienced during Melbourne pandemic lockdowns. Smoron does a lot of staring and gesturing in the show, and, there are a lot of drawn arrows in the prints and drawings. Smoron is very present – he’s directing the show. I want experiencers to feel a bit watched by the work. Text included in the monoprints tells stories of Smoron’s origins and movements, which promotes longer time in front of each print. There are also some small marks in the etchings that may not be seen at first glance as well as magical symbols Smoron would like the viewer to look at carefully. If you look carefully, you’ll see all works have been signed by me and by Smoron using his sigil – a ligature of his name.

Q: What are some of the key works and what subject matter do they deal with?

A: We are Worms with Great Articulation is a charcoal drawing of Smoron guiding the viewer down into a drainpipe. This was drawn from a photo which also features elsewhere in prints in the show. I made this during the bleakness of the pandemic so I could chuckle at my own dark humour. I wrote a short piece of accompanying of text reflecting on our nervous system and how we are primed to survive.

Sagnal is an etching I made as one of the three etchings I’ve launched at this show. It is printed in a limited edition of nine. The copper plate used to print this work started off as a teaching example. I demonstrated how to apply aquatint, hard ground and drypoint just through random blobs and marks. Years later I reworked the plate, adding automatic marks made while in light trance. There is also a sigil I’ve scratched repeatedly into the plate with a knife.

Q: What is it about the printmaking experience that you most appreciate?

A:  Making prints is a beautiful ritual involving intention, image transfer, mirroring, careful step-by-step execution and final revelation of an image. Printmaking is great discipline that opens up moments of flow and control. I’ve loved working in monochrome in this show – the tonal variation and rich velvety blacks of ink and charcoal are very satisfying to me.

Smoron the Stone Departer by Jonas Ropponen is at the Print Council of Australia Gallery,, until 8 March, opening reception Thursday 22 February 5-7pm

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