In Conversation: Jonathan Casella on "Pink Diamond Too"

By Natasha Tai

From October 27 to November 23, 2023, WOAW Gallery Central is proud to present “Pink Diamond Too,” marking American artist Jonathan Casella’s first solo showing in Asia. The exhibition is an exploration of Casella’s personal experiences and reflections, featuring 11 striking artworks he has created this year. Bridging together his ongoing Doublestar series with his hot pink abstract paintings, “Pink Diamond Too” ponders the relationship between color and existing visual lexicon through the cultural significance of the pink diamond. 

Despite the title of the exhibition, the pink diamond has no direct relation to his works. To Casella, the pink diamond represents something that is unattainable. 

Jonathan Casella, (Doublestar) Pink Diamond II, 2023.

“It’s silly,” said Casella, “but I was thinking about and planning for the show when I heard Charlie XCX’s song of the same name. It had nothing to do with the exhibition, but I really liked the idea of the pink diamond as a cultural symbol, and for me to be able to hold and continue the legacy.” 

However, he still holds a fondness for pink, with color being his primary interest in his artistic practice.  “Color is the driving force in everything I do,” he said. “I’m interested in the literality of color, our unique perception of it, and the emotional value it holds. If it’s not an inspiration for the work it’s a framework.”

Casella’s iconic Doublestar series, which he began painting in 2020, stemmed from a desire to create something from the soul. He abstracts the typical five-corner star by placing a star onto itself, effectively making a shape that does not mean anything. The doublestar is thus a vessel for Casella to paint – he creates a sense of narrative through pattern, color, everyday life, gestures, and facial expressions, but his works are not didactic. 

“You get to make what you want from the painting,” said Casella, “Everyone’s perception of my abstract work is different, and it’s amazing.” 

Jonathan Casella, Doublestar) Pink Diamond III, 2023.

His other paintings, such as Strawberry Milk Cast (2023) and The Flamingo (2023), saw an integration of photographic imagery amongst the pink acrylic paint. Featuring a combination of personal photos and images taken from external sources, his works are an exploration of color and form that stemmed from his desire to introduce narrative in his abstraction. 

He said: “I think that by having literal photos and not a rendering of something or someone it allows for the work to be read more on equal terms and seen for what it is. The way we read and understand photographic imagery is more developed and conditioned, and I think it allows the viewer a greater sense of curiosity, and maybe even understanding of the work.”


Jonathan Casella, The Flamingo, 2023. 


His approach to abstraction takes inspiration from Pop Art artist Andy Warhol, in how Warhol “addresses his surroundings as influence and showcasing them as art in this cool but diaristic way,” as well as Lee Krasner’s art of Rippy Bits. Casella’s lifelong study of Robert Rauschenberg, Sigmar Polke, and Ray Johnson also led to his unique practice of “painting” with photos. 

As drawing is not part of his artistic practice, Casella work has always been rooted in a cut and paste process. This technique then naturally developed into an approach to picture making. 

It is also an extension of the patterns I use – like the dots or static motifs,” he added. “I saw the half tone of process printing as an interesting approach- up close it’s just dots of color, but from afar these dots make an image. It’s silly, but that’s so magical to me!”

Jonathan Casella, Strawberry Milk Cast, 2023.

Despite the collage-like appearance, Casella’s works are all acrylic on canvas. Finding similarities between the silkscreen process of photos and tape masking, he uses the same layering and masking technique to create both his Doublestar and abstract paintings. By painting layers and layers on top of each other, he creates dynamic surfaces that invite viewers to examine each work up close. He paints all day every day, where each painting takes him 1-2 weeks depending on the size. In order to create such detailed works, Casella’s artistic process is meticulous and time efficient, driven by his desire for visual results.


“I try to plan and prepare as much as I can – there’s definitely an overworked study behind every piece. This also helps with weeding out anything that’s not hitting,” said Casella.


He added: “I feel like working without physical or mental limitations/restrictions is important, and any questions, anxiety, or unknown variables in the production limit the creation. Also the nature of my process isn’t too forgiving, and now with the photographic element in the work, it’s necessary to have a solid plan to avoid calamity.” 

As Casella introduces “Pink Diamond Too” (along with six hours worth of spray-painted blue dots) to Hong Kong, he brings with him his unique study of color and composition. His vibrant visual language weaves together his unmistakable hot pink abstract paintings with the uniformed body of works that is the Doublestar series.


"Pink Diamond Too" at WOAW Gallery Central

“KP and I started talking about working together maybe two years ago, back and forth with scheduling, and what started as a proposed Doublestar show turned into this really nice, comprehensive showcase of my work,” said Casella. “KP saw and responded to my vision and direction, and let me run with it. That level of certainty, fearlessness, and respect from a gallerist is amazing, and I think maybe rare these days. But there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that much faith – I had to deliver!”


“[This exhibition is] one of the few times I’ve had Carte Blanche with a space and the work shown. And, the closest thing I’ve gotten to full immersion, which it’s my dream to do a fully environmental show.”


Now, Casella is in the middle of painting a big show that will be opening in Los Angeles in January 2024 at the Pit. It will feature works extending from the Big Sky paintings he showed in Marfa, as well as large scale paintings similar to The Flamingo (2023) and Motherhouse (2023) that are currently being exhibited in Hong Kong. On top of his upcoming group shows and art fairs, Casella will also be doing a brief residency in Honduras to work on a suite of his Wet Sister paintings.  


“I’m still basking in the glow of my time [in Hong Kong] – I had such an amazing time,” Casella said. “It was a true pleasure to have such an amazing, and positive reception; I mean, this is a culture capital of the world, and we had the block on lock! Made my soul smile :)”


“I’m so pleased with how it turned out; I couldn’t ask for a better introduction to Asia. Thanks KP, thanks WOAW, big thanks to Hong Kong; I hope to be back soon.”