Incorporating abstract painting and ceramics, New Zealand artist Jake Walker produces richly textured, mixed-media works that explore notions of materiality, architecture, and space.Read More
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Walker grew up surrounded by examples of contemporary architecture through his architect father. Architecture has subsequently been an influence on the artist's work.
Walker attended Whitireia in Wellington, before moving to Dunedin to study at the Otago School of Fine Art. He graduated with an MFA in 1991. Since then, the artist has moved back and forth between Australia and New Zealand, exhibiting his work on both sides of the Tasman.
Jake Walker's paintings and ceramic hybrids are thickly encrusted with layers of oil and acrylic paint that create a unique topography in abstract space. Balancing freestyle and minimalist abstract aesthetics, the artist's practice is shaped by the mantra, 'minimalism works but I resist it.'
Walker's early works from the late 2000s emerged from colourful abstracted landscapes. Contorted abstract figures in perceivable landscapes evolved into total abstractions of colour and form. In Landscape Painting 1 and Landscape Painting 2 (both 2010), Walker adopted his first unconventional material, displaying his paintings on custom-painted laptops.
Continuing to use objects in ways that negated their original function, the artist's use of unconventional materials was revisited and redeveloped several times in later years. The laptops of Landscape Painting 1 and 2 reflect an early interest in reckoning with the traditions of abstract painting in an increasingly digital society, a theme that has persisted in Walker's art.
Since around 2011, Walker has incorporated ceramics into his painting practice. Alongside some stand-alone ceramic works, he began to encase paintings on canvas, linen, paper, and board with earthenware and stoneware frames. Protruding elements and appendages draw upon motifs of ancient and contemporary pottery, whose imperfections reveal the stages of the firing process. These works have continued as a dominant series in Walker's practice for over a decade since.
The paintings themselves are highly process-based but vary widely in composition and application of colour. Thick layers of paint are built up on the picture surface like a relief. Occasionally, Walker incorporates other materials into the painted surface, from grains of sand to paint tubes.
Some works present colourful rough geometric patterns, or expressive layers of colour. Sometimes Walker will build up these colourful freestyle compositions, only to come back later and cover them over with a monochrome layer of thick black paint. Other works comprise minimalist compositions, monochrome black or white canvases, and fields of colour. In some works, the artist incorporates a line drawing, numbers, or text, etched into the final surface coating.
Into the 2020s, more of Walker's paintings have broken free of the ceramic frame. A heightened interest in the effects of one's surroundings is reflected in some of these more recent works. Paintings such as The Sotiri House and The Hyde House (both 2020) are inspired by the colours, geometries, and forms of the contemporary houses designed by his father and his New Zealand and Australian compatriots in the 1970s.
The 'Desktop Painting' series (2013—2015/2020) also reflects a heightened sense of awareness of his surroundings. The paintings are the by-product of paint marks left on the artist's desk from previous works, which the artist develops into their own complex, colourful compositions.
Since 2020, Walker has produced a number of works where he scrolls up the edge of the painted canvas. In contrast to earlier ceramic-framed works, they are free and unframed.
These partly scrolled up works serve as a metaphor for the way Walker's intricately layered and textured paintings unravel before the viewer through slow, careful inspection. They also reference the process of scrolling through social media, through which visual material is consumed at a rapid pace in the online world.
Jake Walker has been the subject of both solo exhibition and group exhibitions across New Zealand and Australia and has featured in international art fairs.
Solo exhibitions include I am in Hobart, Gallery 9, Sydney (2020); American Music, Hamish McKay, Wellington (2019); GOING OVER, The Young, Wellington (2015); The Town Belt, City Gallery Wellington (2014); Painting And Relief, Studio 12, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne (2012); Have a Go, Gallery 9, Sydney (2009).
Group exhibitions include GRUPPENKRANKENHAUS, Hamish McKay, Wellington (2019); Never-Never Land, Roslyn Oxley Gallery, Sydney (2014); Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2013); The Lie Of The Land, Australian Embassy Gallery, Washington, D.C., (2012); Texticles, TCB, Melbourne (2009).
Jake Walker's Instagram can be found here.
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021