Joe Warrior Walker, Judgement Day, 2013. Mixed media on canvas; 121.5 x 91.5 cm.
London-based artist Joe Warrior Walker on painting in the digital age.
How does painting lend itself to your practice?
Painting has always been at the forefront of my practice. As a medium, it has the ability to encompass other technologies. The advent of photography instigated the ‘death of painting’ debate that continues to arise from time to time. However, painting as a medium has always developed through incorporating the very technologies that threaten it. Nowadays, it is very rare for a painter not to use any form photography at some stage in their process. For me, the interdisciplinary nature of painting is where it lends itself to my practice. I have never been able to just paint a picture onto a blank canvas. For a long time, I wished I could, and felt as if I was somehow cheating by always starting with some form of print or collage that I would then work over. I have come to realize that, in fact, it’s the very relationship between the different materials that I find most interesting.
My work often fluctuates between the digital and the painterly. But the way in which I approach the work is always from the mind of a painter. Even my digital film works are created through the same process by building up layers of colour and image. I see these works to be closer to the idea of a moving painting than that of a traditional film or video.
Joe Warrior Walker, still from 'Sight Seeing’, 2013. Screen shot from digital video.
Much of the imagery from your paintings is a result of a series of technological interventions. How do you go about the process of preparing for a composition?
I will always start with an image or series of images. This is usually sourced from my own photographs or video work. I will often choose a particular journey and try to collect information by taking pictures or just filming as I walk. After I have collected the images I sift through and search for a potentially interesting composition. I will often end up incorporating several images from one place to create a sense of that environment. Architecture and nature have become a reoccurring theme since moving to London. Media, advertisements, and found photographs have also frequently been a source of inspiration for my work.
Your digitalized aesthetic suggests the images’ loss of identity and meaning via the influx of imagery we now encounter on a daily basis through various channels. How do you think images speak to us as viewers in an age where we are never apart from visual stimuli?
I think the fact that we are never away from visual stimuli is the very reason we are so desensitised to it. We glaze over images all around us and particularly in London there is little chance to take any of it in, but on some level, we are all affected by the images that surround us where ever we go. I am interested in how images function when they are removed from their original context. Taking a picture out of the environment it exists in and reconfiguring it in a new situation as a painting in a gallery gives it a new function and alters its intrinsic purpose. It now functions as art, and the viewer is forced to look at it in a different way and search for its new purpose or meaning. Whether it’s an image of a tree or an advert for a Campbell’s soup can, we are confronted with the picture in a new context, now functioning as an artwork. There can be something playful in this transformation as well as being very poignant and I think it is only when the function, purpose and value of an image is brought into question that it can truly speak to the viewer.
Joe Warrior Walker, Rectory Road, 2013. Mixed Media on canvas; 60 x 40 cm.
Despite the presence of semi-recognisable imagery, your paintings seem to draw from a language of abstraction. How do you balance the devices of figuration and abstraction in your work?
Finding the balance is the key and the hardest part of resolving a work. The push and pull between abstraction and figuration is a core element to the ambiguous aesthetic of the work and it comes down to an intuitive series of negotiations that I test in Photoshop and on small collages. I work simultaneously on the computer and in the studio to experiment with the imagery and test how it works at different levels of abstraction. The play between the printed and the painted creates a confliction that can hopefully be resolved as a picture that hangs together as a whole.
What is on the horizon for you?
I am currently studying on an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship at UEA London and in the studio working with a London based musician to produce the soundtrack for a video work. This will hopefully be shown alongside a series of paintings in a solo show expected for May this year. Also working on a commissioned painting as well as work for a group show in Camden, all dates soon to be announced.
For more information on Joe Warrior Walker’s practice, visit http://www.joewarriorwalker.com.