Abstract Critical

Brancaster Chronicle No 11: John Bunker Collages

Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow. 2013-14. 240cmX210cm. Mixed media hanging.

Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow. 2013-14. 240cmX210cm. Mixed media hanging.

The Brancaster Chronicles are edited transcripts of recorded discussions made in direct response to exhibitions of abstract painting and sculpture.

19th July 2014, Bermondsey, London.

Those present: John Bunker, Anthony Smart, Anne Smart, Emyr Williams, Robin Greenwood, Sarah Greenwood, Alexandra Harley, Patrick Jones, Sam Cornish, Mark Skilton, Hilde Skilton, John Pollard, Noela James, Dan Coombs, Nick Moore.
John Bunker: I’ll give a very a brief introduction to the work because what I love about the Brancaster approach is that the work comes first rather than adding too much context. I will say all the work was made in the last year. There are different threads of work which have been made concurrently – they have run in very different directions. One important point I took from the last Brancaster crit was how I was thinking in a very centralised way in terms of the placement of material on the surface. When working with collage I’m always on the lookout for the ideal ground on which to place something – looking to find that special shape on that ground that activates the whole space. In the discussion last year it became apparent how centrally weighted much of the work was. It was asked – what would happen if one worked from the edges into the middle? Thus finding out what happens in the middle instead of landing in the middle and fading out. The ‘Fugue’ pieces that are here are trying to work that out for me. They also inform works here made later in the year.

Waiting Room Fugue. 2014. 41.5cm X 33cm.

Waiting Room Fugue. 2014. 41.5cm X 33cm.

Alexandra Harley: What you’ve just said is really interesting because I get a sense of a frame work around a lot of these pieces. They don’t go beyond; they operate on that centre section. I like Waiting Room Fuguebecause you get a feeling of expanding beyond that. But certainly many others likeReunion Fugue feel contained, as though everything is happening in that space. You’ve found the space that it’s operating in and that is where it is. I found that context quite useful.

Reunion Fugue, 2014, 42.5cm x 33.5cm

Reunion Fugue, 2014, 42.5cm x 33.5cm

Anne Smart: Can I just open that up a little bit and talk a bit about this centralisation. I’d like to ask if anybody thinks that if a piece is so centralised then it will be less abstract? And if you work with the premise that you went with – spreading out more, working towards the middle – does anybody think that is a good thing to try to achieve?

John Bunker: I kind of went ‘round the houses’ in a way but have come back to this issue of shape somehow. It’s been a fascinating process trying to get at a new sense of shape and image in the work. I still don’t know if this is a figurative impulse? If we turn to the much larger pieces like Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow – they involve much larger fragments. I wanted those fragments to do the speaking on their own terms…

Patrick Jones: It was Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow that drew my attention straightaway especially when you stand at a distance. It is not in a rectangle, it is opening up. If you look at what is happening in the middle with the pinks and flat black areas, for me, compositionally, that hit me straightaway – in a way the ones in the rectangles don’t. The way things move together in Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow and the unexpectedness of the composition. From about 10ft. away the pinks, blacks and greens built up to something different because it’s not contained.

Sam Cornish: You could say that Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow is the least abstract piece here.

Anne Smart: This is the least abstract?

Sam Cornish: In as much as you could clearly say that is a sun, this is a suspended figure. I don’t think that is to their detriment.

Tony Smart: Are you saying this is figurative?

Sam Cornish: Yeah, like a David Smith, there is a submerged symbolic type figuration.

Dan Coombs: Like a landscape.

Sam Cornish: Like a landscape? Mmm… I wasn’t thinking Landscape.

Dan Coombs: I can’t help thinking about the little collages as urban landscapes. You know?

John Bunkers: Yes?

Dan Coombs: That’s how I read them, yes. There’s a lot of space opening up in some of them and it has the feel of being outside. There are a lot of associations for me.

John Bunker: I guess that is one aspect of working with the materials I work with. It courts associations but…

Robin Greenwood: Associations? Is there a perspective thing in there? What do you mean by association? That the materials look like bits of urban detritus? Or are you talking about how the thing is organised?

Dan Coombs: Well they are bits of urban detritus, that’s what they are made of but…

Robin Greenwood: But you are talking about something else?

Dan Coombs: They seem to suggest how in the urban landscape, everything seems to come at you at once, you know? I read them quite simply as sort of landscapes or visual fields.

Relapsed Fugue, 2014, 30.5 x 60.5 cm, mixed media collage

Relapsed Fugue, 2014, 30.5 x 60.5 cm, mixed media collage

Sam Cornish: I think the one that is landscape format [Relapsed Fugue] has something more of that quality in organisation – of things in a kind of figurative space. But I don’t view them in that way in general. It would be difficult to deny them as some kind of metaphor, but I think it would be a weak metaphor. They have deep space but are quite aerial. I don’t know how much that has to do with the city. I think it comes out of the tendencies of the kinds of abstraction they come out of.

Patrick Jones: Keeping with Relapsed Fugue for a moment, when I looked into it, and it’s shapes, I could go into it in depth. I don’t see figures, I don’t see urban landscape, I don’t see any of that. To me, that’s rubbish! I just see shapes, forms and colours all plonked on a surface. But this one, to me, I understand the language. If I entered it physically and walked through it I would be in ‘John Bunker Land’, which excites me. There’s all this detritus, colour and shape. I do have a problem with all of them though… it’s the sides of the paintings and the mirror plates and the way the thing is fixed to the wall. It’s naff. The big piece [Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow] avoids all that.

Dan Coombs: it is true though, that you want to walk through them. There is a feeling that you have to walk through them quite slowly. Maybe it’s not so terrible that they are a bit like landscapes?

John Bunker: I really wanted these pieces to get at a spatial language. The problem, as Robin pointed out, the moment we start talking about space, we start thinking about representational space – you do have to deal with that if you want something spatial – but you have to get beyond that!

Patrick Jones: Yes, but when you are constructing them, you are not thinking of a base then a sky..?

John Bunker: No! Not at all.

 Rope Burn #3. 2014. 36cm x 26cm. Mixed media collage.

Rope Burn #3. 2014. 36cm x 26cm. Mixed media collage.

Dan Coombs: You could be thinking of a moon, a tree? [Pointing to Rope Burn #3]

John Bunker: Laughs!

Dan Coombs: What about Max Ernst?

John Bunker: I have to say that the history of collage is full of this potential. On one level, I am not against it at all. It is there.

Robin Greenwood: Sorry, hang on. Clarify. The history of collage has the potential for…?

John Bunker: For quite illustrational sorts of figurative language. It’s a history that we are all aware of. But I want to shift the emphasis away from that. Rope Burn #3 came after the ‘Fugues’ and is part of a cluster of works called ‘Rope Burns’. After the ‘Fugues’ I wanted to get back into the materiality of paint and objects – but at the same time try to take on board some of what was achieved with the ‘Fugues’. I wanted to get stuff on the surface that does have associations but make the stuff do something new.

Alexandra Harley: Ok, but is that still working from the middle?

John Bunker: I was definitely hoping that something of the ‘Fugues’ had entered these and changed things a bit.

Sam Cornish: Relapsed Fugue is not my favourite ‘Fugue’ but these don’t feel like there is an invitation to move through them. Obviously you have to look through them, see how they fit together. But ‘travelling’ isn’t what you are meant to be doing here. When they work, they are much more singular than that. Maybe this is too general a point, but you see them, you gather the information that either confirms or denies the initial image that you see. Robin said something interesting about the corners and how they dealt with the corners…

Serpentine Fugue. 2014. 37cm x 35cm. Mixed media collage.

Serpentine Fugue. 2014. 37cm x 35cm. Mixed media collage.

Robin Greenwood: OK. I think for me, this is one of the best pieces out of any of them, Serpentine Fugue. I think the more you put into the thing the better. The more you articulate the space the better. I think they are really good and I think they move collage on to somewhere really original. But I do occasionally think, when you nip into the corner (bottom left), there are vestiges of where you were a year ago, in terms of putting something in the middle with a surround on it. It’s like you want to make sure of yourself with it. I don’t think you need it. You are much better when you are freely roaming around this thing. Is it spatial? It is in some way but it is not a figurative space. You tweeted one recently that really looked like an archway heading off into the distance – a perspective thing with shapes moving down it. You don’t have that here. This feels, to me, like an abstract space. That’s really good.

Patrick Jones: quite confusing, though, isn’t it? When you look at the top of the right hand corner with the black and the red – would you say that functions, Robin?

Robin Greenwood
: Yeah.

Patrick Jones: Yes, I do too – with the green, orange and the blue there…

Robin Greenwood: I just think there are little things there that need sorting out. To be honest with you, I think you do too many things – and I know I’ve said this to you before. I think the new ‘Rope Burn’ pieces are a throw-back to something like a John Hoyland ‘throw-stuff-about’ approach. Whereas these ‘Fugues’ are new. I didn’t like them at first, but I’m warming to them, very definitely.

Alexandra Harley: I think what you have just picked up on is what I was trying to say right at the beginning – I think you have said it much better. It’s not going outside that space, you are containing it. Those corners are really specific. The top left hand corner of Serpentine Fugue there holds it in place. The stripes at the bottom send you back inside. You don’t come out of this space at all. The whole thing has boundaries. You’ve contained it within the square ground.

Robin Greenwood: He’s made so much better use of the whole space.

Alexandra Harley: Absolutely! It’s full of great things. This big sweep coming through here- it’s working brilliantly. It’s just the observation that you are holding things in.

John Bunker: Yes, I get that now.

Rope Burn #1. 2014. 36cm x 26cm. Mixed media collage.

Rope Burn #1. 2014. 36cm x 26cm. Mixed media collage.

Dan Coombs: One thing that was interesting about this that I wanted to ask you is about the edges of the shapes because in this there is a lot of cutting so you get a particular edge. But with other works you have the rope or a bit of wire. You are creating different kinds of boundaries between things. I’ve got to say, I want to defend further the urban landscape notion…

John Bunker: I’m definitely interested in working with different kinds of edges. It’s something that I’ve noted through the process of making these different pieces. There are very different kinds of edges, I’ve discovered that this diversity is something I really like to work with. I like the tear, I like the hardness of edges and the bleed etc, the clashing of materials. So it’s not necessarily the object itself but the edges it produces in relation to something else. That is key to my momentum. If it is a rope, if it is a glove- well, so be it…

Robin Greenwood: it’s the sharpness of things here [in the Fugues] that I find refreshing.

Dan Coombs: I agree with what you’ve been saying, but there’s less of a feeling of wanting to touch it Serpentine Fugue, where as in the other pieces you want to touch them.

Robin Greenwood: Well, that describes my first reaction to the ‘Fugues’. I thought John had lost that tactility in the way he handled the materials. But I think I’ve got over that, if you like. Maybe that was my hang up somehow. Serpentine Fugue is the best piece here, for me.

Dan Coombs: Is that because of its opticality rather than tactility?

Robin Greenwood: No, I think it’s the completeness of it. I saw the big double piece Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow at John’s show the other day and immediately liked it. But now I’m finding that it is dissipating. You have this nice weird stuff in the middle – is it representational, is it abstract?- a surreal kind of thing going on, but it is dissipating round the outside, hanging there on the wall.

Border Town 2013. 71cm X 44cm. Mixed media collage.

Border Town 2013. 71cm X 44cm. Mixed media collage.

Anne Smart: Can I say something here? I’m going to disagree with most of what is being said here because I think we are drawn to this one Serpentine Fugue because it is more familiar. We can talk about it in terms of shape, colour and wholeness and Serpentine Fugue does those things. But to bring this conversation out a bit and generalise it a bit: I don’t know you very well, I’ve met you a few times and the work as a whole could be just a bit indiscriminate in some ways – if you decided to look at it like that. But I am absolutely fired up by what goes on in your head, rather than what you’ve come up with in the individual works. The big word that comes up for me, from looking at your work, is the element of danger that you put into your work. I probably shouldn’t, but I want to associate my own approach to how I paint with looking at your approach in that sense. Now if we look here at Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow I can see why we might be drawn to them in terms of this sense of danger. I think they look it, but are the least dangerous. I think some of the works that look more conventional have that element of danger about them in terms of the spatial qualities we’ve been talking about. I heard you talk about spaces, I’ve heard you talk about edges, but I think some of the things you do are too literal for that. Now if we look at this one [Border Town], I think this is the best piece here, in that the spatial-ness of that is a literal thing because you have literally put this in front of that and kept the picture frame which we talked about and was not liked very much last year. I think you have dealt with that brilliantly in terms of its potential. Now, I’m going to say, if this were mine then I would wish that I could make a painting – not a collage- that does that spatially. For me, that has so much potential in terms of what space can do in a new and abstract way. I like the danger in Border Town. There is danger running through your things, although you are probably not aware of it. You always have an answer for something. I find the ropes irritating but I can see why you are doing it. I guess you think it might be edgy or ‘ropey’ but in terms of what space can do, what a new abstract space can do, it is there even though they are real things. In 7 Tons of Twilight particularly, its image is fantastic, you walk through the door – it hits you – but it’s a disappointment when I see the glove. I want to feel what that glove does in a real thing. Maybe I don’t like collage – but I do. It looks risky but then it disappoints. These circles of hardened paint- it’s all good, but not convincing. Why isn’t it painted? I’m a painter, sorry. I feel as though there is so much potential there in what you can do with what you are touching on here. And I can see when we look at the last one that Robin likes [Serpentine Fugue] that it is so beautiful – it is! We can look at it like you could look at a little Picasso collage. It works. But Border Town works in a far more vivid and dangerous way. Sometimes it shouldn’t be seen so clearly. I hope in my work I try to do dangerous things but that builds on the complexity and is not just another feature. 7 Tons of Twilight is not dangerous but danger-mouse, instead of really pulsing and making me think about it as new abstract work.

7 Tons of Twilight 2014. 150cm X 100cm. Mixed media collage.

7 Tons of Twilight 2014. 150cm X 100cm. Mixed media collage.

Dan Coombs: But what would he have to do to get to that?

Anne Smart: I don’t know (laughs). But that’s what I feel!

Dan Coombs: What if they got more sculptural?

Anne Smart: I just think of it as a painting. If I got into the studio and tried to make that space in a painting it would be fantastic if I could do that. I think it happens too quickly in collage.

Dan Coombs: What about making paintings from collage?

Anne Smart: If he did that, I think he would realise how good the collages were.

Robin Greenwood: The weird thing is I think the space in 7 Tons of Twilight, which I liked the other day, is actually a very conventional space.

Anne Smart: Well maybe. But I’m saying there really is space behind here.

Dan Coombs: Do you mean it’s like a still life at the bottom here?

Robin Greenwood: Well, you said, Sam, that you thought it had a Hofmannesque feel to it? I can see what you mean.

Sam Cornish: That sort of submerged grid thing…

Robin Greenwood: And there’s a sort of field behind it…

Sam Cornish: I think it loses the field…

Robin Greenwood: This area has fantastic content [bottom right] as I see it, but then we’re dissipating again, moving up.

Sam Cornish: I see it the other way round. When I first saw it I liked how the background was woven together. The bits seem to move in and out of each other. That purple thing comes down and then out here as an orange shape. I thought that was really interesting. The thing that bothered me was the bulky stuff in the right hand corner. Now I think the background stuff is just a bit clever and I want more from the bottom right.

Robin Greenwood: Agreed.

Anne Smart: I would agree with that but if you are in the studio trying to make abstract work you come up against certain issues in your working process. One of those that John shared with us is centralisation; another is ‘backgrounds’. It’s another problem! Why can we see a background at all in this piece?

Tony Smart: The reason there’s a background is that you are working with the convention of the rectangle as the support for the painting. Look at Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow, which is my favourite. I think you’ve got to bring the two parts together and simplify it, but who’s up for scrapping the rectangle and simply let this go where it wants to go? Are you that daring?

John Bunker: It’s interesting when you talk about danger and stuff like that because for me it is not a conscious thing. I’m not trying to court it or anything like that. But when you work with collage on a large scale these shapes/fragments have a power all their own that still feels fresh and new to me. I wanted to let them breathe. I think this brings out a duality in my ways of working at the moment. Setting myself challenges about edges, about finding something in the middle instead of starting in the middle. At the same time I’ve maintained this larger work and it pushes against the other stuff and I’m not sure about where that is leading at the moment…

Patrick Jones: it’s a really good thing, to have duality like that.

Anne Smart: Agreed.

Alexandra Harley: What I enjoy about this piece Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow is the difference in scale you get right the way across and inevitably some of that gets lost when working on a smaller scale. You have more choice on this because you have the space to work it. You have really tiny intricate bits and you’ve got the large green areas and the big ‘sun’. So you’ve got that ability to be able to be nuanced by the way that you put the pieces together – that’s why I like this.

Tony Smart: The thing that strikes me is that virtually every crit I’ve been to on painting always ends up having a debate about corners and edges and fill-ups and packing it out – trying to get it to the frame.

Robin Greenwood
: Do you think he’s got rid of the rectangle then? [pointing to the surrounding rectangular wall]

Tony Smart: No, no, no.

Robin Greenwood
: You said you wanted it off the wall?

Tony Smart: I’d like to see it move in different direction more. If you are making abstract sculpture you are never concerned with filling out to something, although you may see some people having the necessity to fill out to something that is in the back of the mind. But yes, a hundred crits have ended up arguing the toss about corners and edges, as if no one knows quite what to do with it. All the best bits are somewhere a bit loose and not far off of the edge.

John Bunker: That makes me think about collage in relation to painting. I remember in my last crit being asked by Sarah if I painted at all, if I had ever painted. Well yes, I have, much of the collage I make is informed by that language and that history, but one of the reasons I have become more committed to collage is that it gives me those sensations of not being caught in something. I don’t think it’s because I’d rather not deal with filling out or whatever, I think there has been almost too much of dealing with it. On one level I’m not interested in that anymore. The ‘Fugues’ were an interesting challenge they have given me access to a different way of thinking about edges and their expressive capabilities.

Rope Burn #5. 2014. 36cm X 26cm. Mixed media collage.

Rope Burn #5. 2014. 36cm X 26cm. Mixed media collage.

Emyr Williams: Let’s look at Rope Burn #5. It’s one I’m intrigued by it because it hasn’t got a lot of signature features of John’s work. One of those is the use of extreme dark/light contrast – a rich dark against a high key colour. Rope Burn #5 doesn’t work with that, nor does it, more satisfyingly, use arcs and circles and geometries that sometimes add awkwardness or an abruptness, maybe. These things speed up the looking and the spaces and the passages. Whereas Rope Burn #5 doesn’t have those problems. It’s more understated. Not one colour is actually very pleasant, but I’m intrigued by it because of that. It works a little harder because it doesn’t rely so much on the things you tend to gravitate towards like high key colour. As with the points that Robin mentioned in Serpentine Fugue, I think I mentioned last year about the circles and the bits of wire and when they go to a perfect circle, quadrant or arc. I think you could get more mileage from moving out of that, so they didn’t declare themselves so abruptly. Rope Burn #5 has none of that really, it is more subtle.

Anne Smart: Yes, I’m going to agree with Emyr on that. He has made me look at that a little more closely. Yes, I agree. You have talked about edges a lot and here they are incredibly diverse and for me it pulls together more than the more conventional ‘Fugue’ we picked on before [in Serpentine Fugue]. So for me Rope Burn #5 slightly over-rides Serpentine Fugue because it feels more left-field, yet the same things occur.

Dan Coombs
: Following on from that, I’m just wondering where you want the emphasis? Maybe what is less successful about 7 Tons of Twilight is you want the emphasis on the edge of the thing rather than the whole object. This is almost like a still life, with the glove and the paint pot. Maybe you wanted to displace or move the viewer on to the edges?

Anne Smart
: Yes, it is beautiful there in Rope Burn #5, that black bit against the tile. There are a lot of self-made edges, there’s a lot of decision making, intellectual thinking that we can latch on to, its apparent in that way.  The rope for me works better than in most of the others because it is just an edge. I don’t see it as a snake-charming appliance.

Dan Coombs: Although I don’t know how this green works around the edge with the orange?

Anne Smart: This green goes round the edge. It’s considered from where I’m standing.

Alexandra Harley: In the pink Rope Burn #6, I love this stuff like ticker tape.

John Bunker: It’s silk screen.

Rope Burn #6. 2014. 36cm X 26cm. Mixed media collage.

Rope Burn #6. 2014. 36cm X 26cm. Mixed media collage.

Alexandra Harley: Yes, and it’s mirrored up there in the weave of canvas. I just thought that was great!

Hilde Skilton: I just wondered what people thought of Rope Burn #6? I like Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow as well and Rope Burn #5, but I find the colours in this one magical and I don’t need these ropes. OK, I agree also when you say it’s a collage so why not build them up like Border Town, which is very exciting as well. This has less of that but you’ve used lots of paint bits and put them on…

Anne Smart: Yes, that is similar to Rope Burn #5. It’s like Rope Burn #5 is the boy and this is the girl. The pink comes round the corner here but they do have an affinity with each other in that sense. These bits of paper that have been painted first, and then a choice has been made as to where to cut it…

Hilde Skilton
: I think it’s beautiful, yes.

Nick Moore: I think, originally, for me I couldn’t get it at all because I was thrown by the pink. But actually getting into it, kind of getting my nose into it, as it were, looking at the detail, I came round to thinking that actually this is really good! Also the fact of the use of the found paint blobs takes me back to the pieces of work you showed in Bristol which I thought were brilliant. There is something about using paint as object again rather than in a painterly way – although it does have a painterliness to it as well. Looking around all this work here, what I’m struck by is the struggle between the ‘Fugues’ which are very formal. You’ve set yourself up with something there. They are ‘Fugues’ therefore they repeat and they use circles and quadrants and things in variation. Then there is the rawness of these other pieces here, especially this one 7 Tons of Twilight. For me 7 Tons of Twilight is two paintings. There seems to be too much between the top right and bottom right. On their own they seem to have much more potential. I really do feel  a tension between the use of materials you are using in the top right and gloves and so on, the actual material against the more painterly material and the visceral reality of the detritus and the thrown away stuff. I feel it especially in Rope Burn #3 here. I feel stretched between the two. I love the throwaway qualities of some of the materials, but I like the neatness of the ‘Fugues’ too. I’m bouncing between the two. Does that resonate with you?

Rope Burn #3. 2014. 36cm x 26cm. Mixed media collage.

Rope Burn #3. 2014. 36cm x 26cm. Mixed media collage.

John Bunker: Yes, as I said it is this duality that I’m working through at the moment. I’m very conscious of perusing different channels of enquiry but there’s a strong part of me saying “No, you should be doing one thing and that is it!” That’s what I’m working against at the moment.

Sam Cornish: Tony was talking earlier about not having a rectangle at all. It’s interesting to note that all the ones I’ve seen you make which don’t have a rectangle are large.

John Bunker: Yes, indeed that’s true.

Sam Cornish: There’s probably practical reasons for that. But do you think the smaller ones could do with being off the rectangle? There are practical problems without a beginning point. The ‘Fugues’ move back to the rectangle. The relative looseness of the ‘Rope Burns’ seems to push away from it a little bit. But because of the way they seem thrown together and the strong background colour, the rectangle dominates. Would it be interesting to make a small one without the rectangle?

John Bunker
: That is an interesting way of looking at it, yes. Because I’ve tended to work directly on the floor or wall with large pieces of found material, I’ve developed a relationship with them without a sense of a ground, as such. But those tiny collages by Francis Davison with the tiny fragments of ripped paper and obviously Schwitters, they are so, so fragile…

Chaseley Street Fugue. 2014. 30cm X 32.5cm

Chaseley Street Fugue. 2014. 30cm X 32.5cm

Sam Cornish: Davison’s problem is, because they are so delicate, they always get shown in frames anyway. We haven’t talked about Chaseley Street Fugue, which is one of my favourites of the ‘Fugues’. What I like about it is it’s the one with the least need for you to go round it and look at intricate details. You see it straightaway. In a way it reminds me of Wall Flower; Just Blood and Shadow in just how confidently the big swooping black thing just ‘is’. It becomes a very simple, very clear image. There’s no invitation for you to work your way around it.

Robin Greenwood: Or walk into it. Is that what you mean, John, by “shape”? Is that what Sam is talking about?

Sam Cornish: You just see it.

John Bunker: Yes, I think it is something to do with that.

Robin Greenwood: You started talking about shape right at the beginning and we ‘ran past’ that.

John Bunker
: Yes.

Patrick Jones: I completely agree with Sam. Chaseley Street Fugue hit my eye straightaway, but I am not sure how it relates to other people who make collages. Juan Gris was mentioned in exhibition notes. Now the top section here is absolutely lovely coming forward with this blue dot. In a way it’s very classical. But then the detritus comes back in again. To me that fucks the space up something chronic. There is also a punk John Bunker out there doing urban landscapes, but this is fairly classical, a very beautiful piece of collage that Motherwell could have done. I think it’s a very valid direction for you to continue to pursue – not to go away thinking that ‘punk’ is interesting.

John Pollard: Well, being a bit of an old punk, I’ll keep a torch burning for punk – I think the broken surfaces and materials you use in relation to the cleaner angular shapes is interesting. I’m not saying one works and one doesn’t but it’s the combination of these things one should keep in mind while one is working, I suppose, rather than judging. And the other thing that suddenly hit me straight away is the seduction in the materials. When you get such a beautiful piece of material, how that might interfere with what is going on in the rest of it. At some point, just like in a painting, it might have to go.

John Bunker: Yes, I’ve been thinking a lot more about that recently. I’m very interested in using different speeds, getting different speeds happening. This is another quality that collage gives to me and has become all the more important. You have these very different dynamics happening in a way a moment has been caught and put down next to another, which is incredibly seductive, I think, but not necessarily the be-all and end-all.

Sarah Greenwood: I was just wondering about how you’ve made all the ‘Fugues’ on MDF. Have you ever thought of making them on off- cuts?

John Bunker: They are, actually…

Sarah Greenwood: But I mean random shapes, even taking two and putting them together – collaging two of these together. So you are extending out and working over a larger area.

Anne Smart: So are you saying that working on a rectangle is almost making it conventional before he even starts to do anything?

Sarah Greenwood
: Yes, it is playing with the conventionality of the frame, as it were, without the frame. It was interesting when we were talking about the ‘Rope Burns’ and how the colour goes round the edge  and it suddenly becomes something different. It becomes a whole object, whereas with most ‘Fugues’, you have to go into them.

Alexandra Harley: But wasn’t that a deliberate decision to work with the rectangle?

John Bunker: Yes it was…

Alexandra Harley
: So what we’ve been saying is sort of counter-intuitive to what you’ve been doing?

John Bunker
: But after being through the process I can see what you are getting at. I can see the potential of that approach, most definitely!

Robin Greenwood
: The MDF panels lend themselves to that idea, don’t they? You could expand on that.

Sarah Greenwood: You’ve got that wonderful piece of wood on Reunion Fugue. I almost want it to walk out somewhere else.

Emyr Williams: Your circles…. I think you have to get rid of all your circles (everyone laughs). I’ll tell you why; because when you apprehend a circle, you think in terms of its radius and its centre-to-out or out-to-in. When you talked about coming in to the centre, you must be remembering that the impetus  of the circle is conditioning you. Whatever you do, break away from the circle, it’s weight and it’s sense of pace. You could argue with any one of these that you could draw a radius around it  and find a weighting within that. It’s the circle that’s the issue in all of them.

Robin Greenwood: Maybe you need some circular MDF panels…

Dan Coombs: Are you saying the circles move outwards or move inwards?

Emyr Williams: It’s the same thing. You apprehend them in an enclosing sort of way. If you can lose the circles or the temptation to reach for them… I think at certain points you might reach for that circle and you know it’s going to help you like a life line.

Dan Coombs
: They are like holes in a way aren’t they? They break the rhythm don’t they?

John Bunker
: That’s probably why I like them so much. I also wanted to get away from the Schwitters of the tiny rectangles abutting each other.  But I love the idea in what you are saying though, that there is another shape – a ghost shape  in relation to what you are actually seeing.

Emyr Williams: It’s the radius issue, it’s not about diameters, it’s the radius. If you build in, you are still building out – it’s the same.

Dan Coombs
: Because it doesn’t have a scale.

Emyr Williams: Exactly. Rope Burn #5 doesn’t have these issues. The only thing that bothers me is this  left hand wedge of orange. If that was different – bingo!  If it had this olive green stain that carried on into here, then that would be it. But we get this green instead. I have a real love/hate with this. Every colour is errrrh! But I really like it! It should have nothing going for it, but it’s got everything going for it because it has none of the seductive things that people have mentioned.

Robin Greenwood
: I completely disagree.

Emyr Williams: That’s good!

Patrick Jones: Could I have a word about talking about each artist individually? If we are going to do the Brancaster Chronicles as a group of artists who share our work it would be nice if we could identify common problems, which I think we are doing by implication. But I would like to do it more specifically.

Anne Smart: That is certainly an aim. There’s an ambition for that. I think it’s fair to give everybody their own go. But I absolutely agree. We should all think about that in terms of making contributions to that further discussion – thinking about what you would like to bring to the table. Because everybody’s might be very different, Patrick.

Patrick Jones
: John has had a really good going-over, there’s lots of food for thought, and I’d like to prepare for mine, bearing this in mind. There are lots of issues that we are all dealing with here – they are common problems, if you like. They are important to solve.

Anne Smart: How do you think it went, John?

John Bunker: It’s been fascinating getting all these different perspectives on the work. A real joy!

  1. Noela said…

    What I find absorbing in John Bunker’s work is the sense of constant flux and experimentation. In some of his pieces he uses an incredible amount of colours which could normally create confusion and just be too much , but he has managed to keep the effect under control and engender a sense of movement and directional energy which really works. I didn’t actually manage to get to see these pieces in person , except ‘Wallflower; Just Blood and Shadow’ which looked great and although it didn’t particularly throw up landscape references at the time, on screen I can see that it might.
    The Fugues have a sense of going round the board and echoing and layering and repeating, which resonates well with the musical form of that expression.