MEET JOHN WALTER

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V: Your work has been described as bold, bright and iconoclastic. To what extent is your work a reflection of the self?
JW: Haha, spot on…the features you mention are visual equivalents for social strategies that I employ as defense mechanisms. The self is a much smaller thing that remains private. However, the way I use visual bombast and humour are part of a complex visual armoury that I have developed, acquired and invented over time, which is self-reflexive and highly responsive to my thoughts.
V: What are the challenges of this show in terms of the amount of work being exhibited?
JW: I’ve made a lot of paintings for this show, which is characteristic of my methodology – I work this way because (a) it allows me to edit down afterwards and (b) the way I think about the paintings as a series is as a syntax. The dilemma is to make something that works as a whole but is not so hermetic that it can’t be broken apart and shown and understood in its constituent parts. We have shown some of the work as individual paintings, some as diptychs and triptychs and some as a salon hang. This show is a shift in the sense that much of my work of the past two years has been to contextualise the paintings within a larger installation but with ‘The Rococo Riots’ we have bought the work back into the context of the white space, thus forcing the work to adapt and clarify itself in a new way. It’s exciting!
V: You feature the likes of Hilary Devey and Cheryl Cole in your works. How does contemporary culture and, by extension, the idea of the female icon, play into your work?
JW: One of the devices I have used over the long term to drag the work out of its hermetic concerns has been to use recognisable images. I mean images that everyone can know, not just an art public. Cheryl and more recently Hilary have been useful to me and have also featured in songs and performances. Matriarchy and imitations of it (see Les Dawson as Ada) feature prominently in my work and I can attribute this to the family of strong women that I come from. I am loathe to say gay icons but there is inevitably a bit of that in there too.
V: There is a lot of buzz around Vitrine at the moment. As a represented artist, why do you think this is?
JW: Vitrine Gallery deserves the buzz around it because Alys [Williams] is doing interesting things. The gallery is unique it its ability to nurture performance, video, installation and painting because of the vision and the spaces it has, which are alternately very public and more private. It’s a busy programme and very varied. I think the Bermondsey location helps and the choice of artists is strong. It’s showing work that we’re not seeing in London elsewhere right now and in a way we’re not seeing. For me it’s really exciting to be part of and feel like I’m finding a context and audience for my work with the support of the gallery behind me.
V: What are your hopes for the show?
JW: Initially I just wanted to make some good new work, then I wanted to show it well. I’ve done that. Now I want lots of people to come and see it – new and existing audience members. I hope people ‘get’ what I’m up to in these paintings and the installation of them. You just never know!

John Walter ‘The Rococo Riots’ runs until 1st June at Vitrine Bermondsey Street.

List of images:

Photographer Jonathan Bassett. Courtesy of Vitrine.

01 John Walter, Hot Corners 1, 2013
Digital print, resin, temporary tattoos, acrylic, vinyl, paint pen and
collage on canvas, 61 x 76cm.

02 John Walter, Cheryl Bagel, 2013
digital print, resin, spraypaint, ink, oil and acrylic on canvas, 61 x
76cm.

03 John Walter, Hilary Devey, 2013
digital print, acrylic, resin, ink and spraypaint on canvas, 61 x 76cm.

04 John Walter, Waifs and Strays, 2013
digital print, spraypaint, acrylic, resin, PVA glue and vinyl on canvas, 61
x 152cm.

05 John Walter, Wolverine on the Beach, 2013
digital print, resin, ink, acrylic, paintpen, oil, spraypaint, vinyl
collage and glitter fabric on canvas, 76 x 183cm

06 John Walter, Hot Corners 3, 2013
Digital print, resin, temporary tattoos, acrylic, vinyl, paint pen and
collage on canvas, 61 x 76cm.

07 John Walter, Black Tears, 2013
Acrylic and glitter fabric collage on canvas, 61 x 76cm.

08.John Walter, Gagging on It, 2013
Digital print, silicone, collage, acrylic, resin, gouache and spray paint
on canvas, 76 x 228 cm