Jonathan Allen

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For the American football player, see Jonathan Allen (American football).
For other people named Jon Allen, see Jon Allen (disambiguation).
Jonathan Allen
Born 1966
Nationality British
Occupation Visual Artist
Years active 1991-present
Known for Visual Artist and Magician
Tommy Angel #4 (2006) b/w photograph by Jonathan Allen shown at Singapore Biennale

Jonathan Allen (born 1966) is a visual artist, writer, and magician based in London. His alter-ego "Tommy Angel", is a fictitious evangelist and magician satirising the genre of Gospel Magic, who Allen portrays in a variety of media including performance, photography, video, and writing.

Life and work[edit]

Allen received a Fine Art MA from Chelsea College of Art in 1989 and was a Henry Moore Fellow at Sheffield Hallam University from 1991-1993. From 2007-8 he was the Arts Council England Helen Chadwick Fellow at the University of Oxford and the British School at Rome.[1]

Allen's work has appeared in many exhibitions including “Feint” at Deutsche Bank in New York City, “The Float in the Sight of Things” at Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, “Mesmer” at temporarycontemporary in London, “Con Art” at Site Gallery in Sheffield, "Scarecrow" in Metzova Greece, and "Variety" at the De La Warr Pavilion Bexhill on Sea, UK, the first Singapore Biennale [2] , "The Dictionary of War" in Berlin, "Kalanag" at David Risley Gallery London, 'The Great Transformation - Art & Tactical Magic' at Frankfurter Kunstverein, and 'Adventureland Golf' at the Grundy Art Gallery Hull.[3]

In 2002, Allen instigated the international group show "Con Art" with American curator Helen Varola and Carol Maund which explored art and conjuring’s shared principles of ‘cunning and conning’ through a gallery exhibition (including Mark Wallinger, Simon Patterson, Sarah Charlesworth, and others), a symposium (chaired by Susan Hiller), and a live performance event including, amongst others, Forced Entertainment, Ursula Martinez, and Tommy Angel. In 2010, he co-curated the Hayward Gallery touring exhibition "Magic Show" [4] with the writer Sally O'Reilly.

Allen writes widely on art and cultural history for visual art journals including Contemporary (magazine), Tate Etc, and Cabinet magazine, for which he guest-edited an issue dedicated to magic in 2007.[5] He is a member of The Magic Circle, the UK organisation for professional magicians, and a curator at The Magic Circle Museum. In 2013 Allen identified a previously unknown tarot deck within the museum’s collections hand-painted c.1906 by the English artist and mystic Austin Osman Spare.[6] He subsequently edited the first critical survey of Spare's cards.[7]

Tommy Angel[edit]

Tommy Angel is the name of a fictional 'gospel magician' who features in some of Allen's photographic and performance work. Gospel Magic is a form of evangelical entertainment used by Christian believers, primarily within the USA, to communicate religious stories and ideas through the medium of performance magic. Tommy Angel, who has been described as "Billy Graham meeting David Copperfield via Donald Rumsfeld", parodies this suggestive magic subgenre.

Large black-and-white photographic images depicting Tommy Angel, were exhibited at The De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea, UK (2005), David Risely Gallery (2006), and Singapore Biennale (2006). Allen has performed the persona of Tommy Angel in a diverse contexts including cabaret venues, church halls, and art galleries, including the Hayward Gallery on the occasion of Eyes, Lies and Illusions, and in 2006 at Tate Britain, as well as the ZOO Art Fair. From 2004-6, Tommy Angel's co-performer was the British singer-songwriter Paloma Faith who appeared on stage in the role of "Miss Direction".[8]

A fake dollar bill bearing the face of Tommy Angel and various parodic evangelistic slogans was introduced into public circulation (via pickpockets using their skills in reverse) during the 1st Singapore Biennale in 2006.

Allen's work as Tommy Angel was the subject of a feature article in the Las Vegas-published Magic (magazine) in February 2006.


  1. ^ Helen Chadwick Fellowship, Oxford University [1] Retrieved 17 February 2014
  2. ^ Singapore Biennale [2] Retrieved 17 February 2014
  3. ^ Adventureland Golf, Grundy Art Gallery [3] Retrieved 17 February 2014
  4. ^ Magic Show ISBN 9781853322815 [4] Retrieved 17 February 2014
  5. ^ Cabinet, writing by Jonathan Allen [5], Retrieved 17 February 2014
  6. ^ "Archive - Camden Arts Centre". Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  7. ^ Lost Envoy - The Tarot Deck of Austin Osman Spare (Strange Attractor Press, 2016 ISBN 9781 907222443) Retrieved 18 August 2016
  8. ^ Paloma Faith [6]", GQ Magazine Retrieved 6 December 2012

External links[edit]