We sat down with award-winning visual artist Jonathan Monaghan, to chat about his “Tetramorphs” series on MakersPlace and learn more about what inspires his work. Check out the exclusive interview below!

About Jonathan Monaghan

Monaghan works across a range of media, such as animation, sculptures, and prints. His style weaves together ancient myths and metaphors with wide-ranging references to science fiction, baroque architecture, and historical artworks. He seeks to explore what contemporary mythology might look like.

Monaghan was an early adopter of NFTs. He experimented using the Bitcoin blockchain to authenticate his digital artworks in 2013, collaborating on Keidom (later called Ascribe) — an important forerunner to modern NFTs. He’s remained active in the cryptoart space, becoming one of the first artists on Foundation. And his work was also featured in the launch of crypto.com’s NFT platform, where he collaborated with TikTok musical sensation Nathan Evans to create a series of animations inspired by the viral hit “Wellerman.”

How did you get your start in the arts?

“My first artistic interests were not traditional painters, sculptors, or even video artists, but video game designers and science fiction movies. I initially studied computer graphics with the intent to work in Hollywood, or make video games or commercials. It was in this arena that I established my aesthetic sensibility. But rather than pursuing a commercial, entertainment or technical career in 3D modeling, I became more interested in its ability to work in the analogical space of contemporary art, specifically in video art as well as sculpture through 3D printing.”

What was your introduction to NFTs?

“What excites you about them the most as an artist? I was doing an artist residency in Berlin in 2013 when I met Masha and Trent McConaghy. One evening over dinner they introduced me to the concept of using a blockchain as a distributed ledger to secure digital artwork. This concept fascinated me because I felt art collectors and even institutions were still wary about acquiring digitally native artworks, and this provided a more secure way to track provenance and authenticate my works. We did a lot of experimentation using the bitcoin blockchain to create what were essentially proto-NFTs. It was pretty incredible to see this concept develop into what it is today.”

What or who are some of your biggest inspirations?

“For the past fourteen years I have been exhibiting digitally animated videos, sculptures, prints, and installations in galleries and museums and galleries around the world. All this work I do is motivated by my growing concern over the dehumanizing and alienating effects of society’s growing technological dependency. My work weaves together ancient myths and metaphors with wide-ranging references to science fiction, baroque architecture, and historical artworks. I am inspired by and reimagine everything from Faberge Eggs to specific historical paintings. The result is a cross-disciplinary, yet connected body of work offering critical reflections on the technological landscape they come from.”

Your artwork often explores futuristic scenarios while interweaving mythologies or stories of the past – why is this interaction interesting to you and how does it play out in your artwork?

Tetramorphs II series by Jonathan Monaghan

“Traditionally, mythological stories have been born out of a desire to understand humans’ relationship to the natural world and are deeply connected to the human psyche. Fantastical and otherworldly visions of mythical creatures sometimes offer the best channel to understanding the complexities of human nature and the inhabited world. Today, in the midst of an often dehumanizing technological experience, my work aims to answer the question: what would a contemporary mythology look like?”

What is the story of the Tetramorphs? Who are these creatures and how did they come to be?

“Tetramorphs are inspired by medieval depictions of otherworldly winged beings. To conjure up these creatures, I referenced the colors and animal associations with various Zodiac signs. In the first Tetramorphs collection, we see Scorpio, with its black and burgundy colors and parts of a scorpion and eagle. There is also Tarus, an ox or bull associated with the color green. Like something out of the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”, these things come together to form Megazod, which is a unique artwork in this drop. So Tetramorphs are inspired by legendary creatures, like a minotaur or siren, but instead of being a conglomeration of different animals, they are hybrids of technology and luxurious furniture. The series is a tongue-in-cheek take on a long history of symbols associated with prophecy, evoking modern anxieties about the future.”

Tetramorphs: Megazod, Edition of One

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