Brancaster Chronicle No.54: John Bunker Collages

“Kalopsia”. 2017. 84cmX85cm. Mixed media shaped collage.

25th November 2017, London.

Taking part: Emyr Williams, Richard Ward, Anne Smart, Anthony Smart, John Bunker, John Pollard, Alexandra Harley, Robin Greenwood, Sarah Greenwood.



“Wraysrumble”. 2017. 60cmX53cm. Mixed media shaped collage


“Tzila”. 2017. 52cmX51cm. Mixed media shaped collage


“Tjǫrn”. 2017. 53cmX42cm. Mixed media shaped collage


“Skadwaz”. 2017. 58cmX72cm. Mixed media shaped collage


“Ragnarök”. 2017. 56cmX52cm. Mixed media shaped collage


“Puck”. 2017. 84cmX89cm. Mixed media shaped collage


“Pollux & Castor”. 2016-17. 96cmX94cm. Mixed media collage


“Obygð”. 2017. 60cmX61cm. Mixed media shaped collage


“Mimerje”. 2017. 70cmX55cm. Mixed media shaped collage


“Flail”. 2017. 45cmX32cm. Mixed media shaped collage



“Coney Island”. 2017. 58cmX87cm. Mixed media shaped collage


“Cannaba”. 2017. 61cmX44cm. Mixed media shaped collage


“Annarsstaðar”. 2017. 54cmX55cm. Mixed media shaped collage

  1. Noela James said:

    A very rich, diverse and comprehensive discussion reflecting the work John has produced. The collages seem to echo John’s aims to articulate fragile relationships with diverse materials and space.
    I think the linear elements work very well in Shadwaz, Wraysrumble and especially Tzila , it’s loose yellow scribble really well placed to offset the main structure moving to the left. The lines in Ragharok and Cannaba feel graphic and very different from the main body, perhaps demonstrating a fragile relationship, but they really stand out within the group. I felt my eyes were constantly drawn to the slight awkwardness of them in the film. Look forward to seeing how John could develop the linear quality further.
    It was interesting to hear Tony talk about having a different experience depending how near he was to the works, I remember this was something that cropped up in Anne’s Brancaster too. Perhaps because the collages are small and intimate it is fitting that they should give more when viewed up close.
    These collages (the photos are good bar one) really show John’s skill at manipulating, integrating and enlivening diverse materials into some very imaginative abstract works that sometimes mess with your eyes (even on screen) making the white wall come forward between the shapes and create space.


    • [I think I fixed the bad photo… technical glitch. BTW, don’t forget that if you click on the images you get an enlarged pic]


      • Noela James said:

        Yes thanks the details show up really well.


  2. Hilde Skilton said:

    From the discussion it becomes clear how the work is impacting in many different ways upon the viewers. For me, this impact is what initially engages me, then the relationship of specific detail can be engaged with ,and then on to how the detail relates to the whole ,thereby enriching the experience.

    Each work of Johns has this about it. So John; persevere with the awkward, sensitive , inventive, beautiful because you cannot know where this going to lead to.

    Just a thought about the wall and shadows; can these be specific given that they are changeable factors?

    The illusion of movement , created visually by drawing, differing densities, colour and tonality are making the 2D look like 3D objects. Do you think that this is a fair comment?


  3. I think it is especially difficult with John’s work to form a discriminating opinion, not only because he has a consistently high level of novel invention throughout the work, but also because he makes work that is neither painting nor sculpture – he operates in territory pretty much his own, and we are all mindful of keeping open all the options. However, on reflection, I do think this is a mixed-bag of work that does all sorts of different things with quite varying degrees of success.

    The relationship of the work to the wall might be seen as analogous to open space in and around a sculpture, but not only does that mean very little, I don’t in the end think the analogy stands up. The wall has become part of John’s new territory, and it is used in a variety of interesting and experimental, but also inconsistent, ways, and it needs careful thought. For me, the ones with the linear strings or wooden spacer elements don’t work so well, and perhaps don’t engage so well with the wall even as they seemingly attempt to gain more of it by opening out across it. I like the idea of that, and I understand the ambition, but these elements I think become a bit literal/figurative, as in the “hanging” of “Cannaba”, and make the work more object-like, less pictorially spatial. What seems to me to work best is when a diversity of different things integrate pictorially, sometimes including the wall, but with it weaving in and out and through the other material in a more natural way, with the spatiality of the piece not unsettled by figurative triggers. I realise in saying this that I am aligning these collages far more with painting than with sculpture, but I see no convincing third option. I rather think John sees them very differently to me, so I’m trying to keep open the possibilities of all these things.

    I found the description of the rotation of the top left of “Kalopsia” interesting but disconcerting, and it put me in mind of a sculpture maybe like some kind of David Smith “Star Cage” hybrid. I can see the movement, but then that puts demands upon the two “arms” that support that part as it is thrust out into some kind of “semi-space”, and upon which it must “pivot”. Those arms passively reside in the world of 2-D, whereas the implied movement is something/somewhere else. The possibility of movement an interesting conjecture, but heaps more questions on the nature of these works and their relation to the “space” of the wall – if that’s what it is.

    The movement I’m more interested in, and that I think is at times more successful, is the movement that the observer can claim to make across the whole piece, part to part, without hindrance. The “arms” of “Kalopsia”, don’t quite achieve that, although overall I think it is one of the better pieces, because it avoids, on the one hand, the pitfalls of one or two of the others of getting a bit clogged with their close-quarter relationships of interesting “stuff” – e.g. “Skadwaz” – that can bring to a halt the articulation across the whole piece; and on the other hand, the tendency to “background” the busy and articulating central part of the work with a strongly outlined “cloverleaf” configuration/image of three or four related big and simple shapes. The piece that I think gets furthest on from both these potential hazards is “Tzila”, despite the slight repetition in the two right-angled areas, which I would have thought could be tweaked anyway. I like the clear and considered articulation of this piece, which happily includes the wall at times, when needed, as an integrated element of the spatiality specific to that piece, rather than as any generalised idea about “space” that the wall might or might not represent.


  4. They are bits of genius constructed out of stuff that probably was mine once upon a time? Well I feel as though I have seen some of those bits before. But never in this way.
    John pins them to the wall.
    The shadows change.
    He unpins them and they come away in bits and disappear.
    They lose their specificity ,which they had in shed loads,and which we talked about as we huddled around them.
    They never did crave formalising but if you need to you can break them down and put them back together.
    If you want to you can utilise your taste buds and spit bits of them out.
    For me that’s just more genius.
    If ,like me , you were there on the day when they were all “flying” around in that little space it matters not.
    If you’ve had a little look on line or Instagram or seen us discussing them on the Brancaster film,its the same,it matters not.
    These are for real.
    They are full of NOWness and I found them the most inspirationally “Abstract” things from Now that I have seen for a very long time.


  5. Richard Ward said:

    I too was very impressed by John’s latest work. I think that the significance of the enhanced integration of the backing wall lies not in any contribution of the wall to the collages (this would anyway be contingent on the colour/texture of the particular displaying wall), but in the dissolution of the collage outline. This is liberating, allowing the eye a much freer access to the work as a whole and in particular to its internal details.
    Seen this way, it doesn’t really matter how much of the wall is activated/ incorporated – it’s enough that the work doesn’t everywhere end where the “bits” end.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another of the winning aspects of this work is how it seems to extend the palette of abstract art, in both diversity and particularity of colour. It’s an illusion, but look at all the different yellows and greys in “Obygð”, and how they are achieved; or look at all the different blacks and near-blacks in “Wraysrumble”, all those subtle but distinct variations incorporating into the colour the modifications of varied texture and transparency that perhaps would be difficult to achieve in paint. I also love the way John can incorporate novelty materials composed of things like shiny gold and silver in yet more variations to the colour, without it looking in the least discomfited – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that achieved before.

    This extended specificness of the elements in the work seems to increase the variety of content that we can see and think about. That relies upon the particular properties of the material and its shape being in relation to the properties of different but adjacent or proximal “stuff”, rather than in those properties themselves. And the flip-side of this specificity is that when the relations fail, as I have suggested they occasionally can do, due to isolation by over-extension, the material can fall back into its default state of literalness. It’s movement through the relational tautness of a piece that prevents that happening in the best work.


  7. The indented profile across these John Bunker works means that this kind of outline has to be accompanied by some kind of renewal of itself as it avoids the obvious pitfalls of becoming a container for the collage, the content, avoids being a dead thing.How to stay alive at the edge ?
    How can the wall, the empty space , become a part of the work? just as important and expressive as the actual material bits themselves. Perhaps this has similarities to space in sculpture.
    I suggested movement and more specifically rotation in the case “Kalopsia” as perhaps the means the piece has of constantly mixing up the full content and at the same time the outline as a way of keeping everything together ,fluid and able to overcome the inertia of meaninglessness. Pieces of activity of shapes, colours and contrasting materials simply stacked together. For this to be seen to be happening one has to stop looking at the works as having any basis in figuration.See ‘rotation’ as not part of a literal object activity but something generated out across and through the work materiality.I see the whole piece in effect moving in depth and extent and stopping the outline from seizing up. The rotation in every direction ,in effect trying to overcome the more usual rectangle and promote a more natural shape for something made out of pieces.


    • Sounds good, but to be clear – are you talking just about “Kalopsia” in the last two sentences, or all the work?

      And can one willfully “stop looking at the works as having any basis in figuration”? I recall talking about this with a work called “Shibboleth” at John’s last Brancaster, where I did manage to get over an inadvertent figurative image by conscious effort. I think the problem with some of this work is a little different from that case, in as much as it is not a figurative image that is suggested, but a lapse back into the literal stuff of which it is made, which I see as a different kind of “figuration”.


  8. To be clear ..yes it was “Kalopsia” i was taking about as that was the collage I was speaking of in the film.
    I felt that your description of “Kalopsia’s” rotation, the arms was literal and figurative but I do respect that is how you saw it I am giving an alternative.
    I suppose what I am trying to do is focus on that which is obviously good because I, like others ,am obsessing about this work but am finding the difficulties both challenging and inspiring and have no desire to pin them down.
    I genuinely think this a good place for myself to be in.


    • Good, but there is a slight misunderstanding – my figurative description of the arms of “Kalopsia’ was as a result of thinking about your notion of the isolated rotation of the part, rather than anything “as I saw it”. I think it’s one of the best pieces, as a whole thing.


  9. Robin..i don’t see a misunderstanding but a different viewing of this collage.
    You describe a part to part analysis in arriving at a whole and my attempt at a whole via sequences of rotational movement being the whole…maybe…
    This of course has developed since my single observation of the top left hand corner of the collage.


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