Incidental Debris - Johnny Bunting

Johnny Bunting (1980) is an English artist currently residing in Rotterdam. He works with a variety of media, including painting, photography, video and installations. A common thread running through many of his artworks is the assembling of fragments of images and found objects. These collections are often presented on shelfs as wall installations or as sculptural tableaus, representing an entanglement of life and art. They also contain aspects of systematisation and cataloguing and not least, they possess an artist's look at the comprehensive image-potential all around us, whether it is the contrasting beauty and grittiness of the lived life or the characteristic imagery of various art forms.

Fragments play a large role in his artistic practice both as physical objects that he combines to form collages and installations and as conceptual fragments, the capturing of thoughts and ideas on scraps of paper that are put in a drawer for later. He treats each object and source of inspiration with the same value and importance and with their inherent ability to rid themselves of any formal hierarchy, the works disregard the formulas of traditional sculpture.

In his works, signifiers of pop culture and everyday life blend together with references to sources as diverse as religious iconography, commercial brands, fashion and more. With a careful selection of elements sampled in unexpected compositions, Bunting presents the viewers with conundrums that pique their curiosity. He creates new spaces for meaning and interpretation, and this demands an involvement of the viewers, who have to continue the stories themselves, relying on their own reading of the objects and images and the network of references. The works are open, yet precise in the way that Bunting draws on our shared cultural image-archive and thus activates his viewers' visual memories, triggering an intuitive recognition. Some pieces seem to reveal a critical position towards matters such as rampant consumerism, materialism and social conformity, but it remains up to the viewers to reach their own conclusions. Regardless of any messages Bunting's work might transmit, it seems as if he says: "No one interferes while I work, and I won’t interfere while you look at it."

The viewer's direct involvement in the works is echoed in Bunting's play with the book media which lets the viewer flick back and forth and discover new correspondences between the various images.The books, which are small individual works, by no means offer a story in the traditional sense, but rather opens for fragmented narratives based on Bunting's paintings, photos and collage-like mixed media compositions of carefully ripped out pages, labels, receipts, hand-scribbled or typewritten notes and other bearers of significance.

With his video works, he creates similar short visual stories by putting together series of photos and other images against a backdrop of music. Using mobile apps and online photo and video editing tools, he stitches photos and film clips from his smartphone together with found images in rapid sequence. Often he uses images from an urban environment; traffic signs, reflections in shop windows, torn advertisement posters and views from drives through the city. At this high pace, the captured images of everyday life become a flow of visual information, almost resolving into patterns and shapes in the eyes of the viewer. These streams of pictures seem to mirror the way that visual information hits our retinas every second and how images are constantly stored, rearranged and interpreted in our minds.

Fragments of text play a role in Bunting's art as well in the form of titles that become poetic extensions of the works, like single-line poems. Recurrent themes appear in the titles, drawing lines between the works. They are written without spaces, which captures and calls for the viewer's attention in the deciphering and again in the understanding of the complex connection between work and title. It seems, however, that the viewer should not try too hard to find meaning in each line but instead take in the entirety of Bunting's distinctive world of image, language and juxtaposition.

The assembling of scattered visual elements is not unlike our daily experience of incoherent incidents; some of them we want to salvage in an effort to put together a cohesive story of our lives. In his sculptural works, Bunting visualises the subjective nature of memory and the way we all have our fascinations and things we ascribe meaning to. Everyone has their relics, heirlooms and souvenirs - incidental debris of lived lives – which all become parts of each person's unique narrative.

Bunting's works become examinations of a world in perpetual flux where meaning as well as function is constantly changing and renewed; each object takes on a new life, developed from its former self. Some will be reused in new settings as components in other ongoing stories, most likely combined with ideas from the drawer. He invites his viewers to stop and see what he sees, to explore connections between fragments and to then consider what the whole might be.