Julian Walker


Home | Languages and the First World War | Introduction | Gone Away, 2010 | Births, Chimneys and Lightermen - Collecting Greenwich Peninsula, 2008 | Words and Forgetting, 2007 | Encounters with Objects, EV+A, Limerick 2006 | Art out of place, Norwich, 2005 | Interventionist embroidery | Treat Yourself, 2003 | The Best in Heritage, 2002 | Hygiene, 2002 | Art & Work Award 2002 | Unit 2 Gallery, 2002 | Lies & Belonging, 2001 | Walking On Eggshells, 2000 | In The Picture, 2000 | New Contemporaries 99 | Projects 1995 to 2001 | Mr and Mrs Walker have moved, 1998 | Curriculum Vitae | Smaller Individual Works | Work data: size, date, medium | Writing | Reviews | Catalogue Texts | Current work | Drawing | The British Library | Do Bees Like Van Gogh? | Transmission: Provenance - talk Nov 2004 | Tablets and sculptures | Educational work | Books on language


"Walker's work, while acknowledging the inevitability of repetition, allows for repetitions in which difference is the modus operandi.  Simple continuities are stripped of their normative power, and art can engage with the conditions of its own production."

Andrew Benjamin, review of Touch, Contemporary Visual Arts magazine, issue 30, 2000


"If contemporary art is to matter to Liverpool it must have something to say about the city.  The only artist who seriously attempted this was one of the participants in 'new contemporaries', Julian Walker, whose piece Collection: Liverpool City Museum, May 1941 filled a vast wall with a hypnotically regular assemblage of charred fragments of objects supposedly from the old Liverpool City Museum, which was destroyed by an incendiary bomb in may 1941.  Walker's collection of burnt bones, bits of manuscript, blackened calico, broken clay pipes, fragments of smoke-darkened glass - a huge epic screen of stuff - may or may not actually be from the lost museum, but it suggests a terrible apocalyptic destruction of memory, a traumatic loss of meaning."

Jonathan Jones, review of the Liverpool Biennial, Frieze magazine, Dec 1999


"Walker brings together not only the past and present of this particular institution, but evokes a set of shared histories and concerns in which artworks and museums are bound to a broader range of historical and cultural forces, reminding us as much as Metzger's EAST does that one way or another, artworks are forms that can never be divorced from a larger sense of social context."

Dan Smith, review of CAN05, Art Monthly, September 2005

"Julian Walker, our new art-crush." ArtWednesday, December 2011

 "My personal favourite is an embroidered linen hand-towel by JulianWalker As If (I didn't have enough to do already) - the understated simplicity and elegance of white-on-white text referring to the complexity of running a household at Nymans, whilst highlighting a sense of distance that many of us feel as everyday instant-response demands move us further and further away from the pleasurable, vital experiences of the hand-made." Amanda Bright, Selvedge Magazine, 2012

 "Julian Walker's subversive embroidery pieces (reworking existing textiles) remind us of loss and toil. Embroidered in white stitch on white linen is the sotto voce remark 'As if I didn't have enough to do already' (a reminder, perhaps, that party games may not have been so much fun for the servants)" Liz Hoggard, Embroidery Magazine, September 2012.

 Most of my work is site-specific; where it is not, it is strongly referencing an idea or set of ideas.  In this sense it is reactive, exploring how I can understand specific bits of the world, or exploring how other people have done so.   Hence my interest in museums, collections and the preserved object.  Working with objects, collections, sites or ideas like the body as time-based object, involves a fairly large amount of research, which I have always found rewarding.

I have maintained a critical engagement with these subjects; sometimes this has not always been immediately welcome.  Asking to sleep in a museum under the gaze of CCTV, or to put a museum item in your mouth, or to cover a museum wall with reject items and fakes, these can pose a challenge to curators;  negotiation and a commitment to thorough research and preparation, plus engagement with staff and public, have brought all these projects to realization.

Repeatedly familiar themes emerge from the practice and the works: control and power, possession and engagement, desire and fear, object and language, art object as object.  What does naming things do?  How do we control the past?  What does ownership allow?  What stories do I want an object to tell me?   Does my work test the subject or test my response to it? 

The excessive grid emerged about 10 years ago as a format that provided simultaneous satisfaction and bewilderment.  It was generated during my residency at The Natural History Museum through my innocent query about the number of items in the collection, providing figures ranging from 65 to 69 million, figures way beyond my comprehension.  Other works I have developed using a variety of media: small-scale installation within a collecting format, photography, video, text, live-art, and alteration or replication of historical objects.

  I am drawn to the idea of the sense of presence, particularly produced by traces of activity or space occupied, attaching to preserved sites and objects.  This is something I have become aware of through working with sacred and secular relics, famous sites, prohibitions of touch, etc.   Why are we allowed to touch some things and not others?  Why are some people allowed to touch things while others are not?  As well as desire, fear plays a role in this, fear of the possibility of contagion via objects (see "Hygiene" at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), fear that touching a painted representation of a woman's chest brings art too close to pornography (see "Touch" at Wolverhampton Art Gallery), fear that I will impose too much of my presence onto a historical object or place (see "Mr & Mrs Walker have moved" at Kettle's Yard).   And the fear that I will, as I have already done, irrevocably change things (see Considered Alterations).

Almost functioning as deliberate mistakes, these works test the subject by sidestepping the rules of engagement.  Yet they allow engagement with what is prohibited and thus desired.  Touching the past allows the possibility of a direct physical relationship with a concept, story or experience, and the idea of moving across time. I am excited by the idea of the relic as an object which in connecting us with a concept of a source, is able to control or even abolish time.