Makeshift Envelope

John Wallbank (b.1976, Birmingham UK) lives and works in London. He studied Fine Art at Edinburgh College of Art (1995 -2000) and in 2004 he graduated from the MFA program at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. He was winner of the Mark Tanner sculpture award in 2010 at Standpoint Gallery, London and is currently in Brooklyn, New York participating in Triangle Arts Association’s six month residency.

Structures of wood, rubber, perspex, wire and clay hold together, forming jury rigged networks, a vernacular architecture, clunky and shot through with accident. As nodes and limbs constellate this other stuff appears, a kind of reified dark matter of the studio – dirty browny grayish matter that makes up the missing masses. I noticed some on John Wallbank’s studio wall; a folded piece of sheet polythene containing what looks like a mixture of insect bore dust and larval pellets. It’s some weird-looking sculptural run-off or studio sweepings, all the more odd for having been scooped off the ground and kept in an improvised envelope. Packaged and elevated to eye level for consideration, part entomological specimen part bag of granola. The makeshift envelope and brown particles combine to make a whole – hard to decipher, but an object nonetheless, irreducible and insisting. John spoke about the importance of keeping this kind of thing around - allowing the frass you can’t account for back in to permeate those things you can account for. Permeations are what stymie these constructions on their way toward function, what makes them art and not instrument. As the sculptures are worked and reworked this grist is generated, gaps open up, the structure becomes porous, the grist is worked back in. This cycle creates a manifold and encrusted topology: difficult to describe as more unaccountables are mixed in. Detail is added to detail, subtracted, reoriented; accident and intention integrated in a process that spans the studio.

Eoin Donnelly
Originally commissioned to accompany the exhibition Masticate at Arcade, London, 2011


(See print issue for more images)