SJ Walton is a woman whose work we’d quite happily fill our houses with; in fact she could cover every inch of every surface with her masterful mark making. SJ is an underrated painter and photographer from Bath. One could stare at her work for hours, trying to decipher every scratch, sweep, pore, and graze so elegantly and haphazardly strewn over moleskin pages, canvas and slabs of concrete in all shapes and sizes.
All we want is to reach through our computer screen and trail our fingers over the crevices, evoking satellite views of fossilised civilisations, undiscovered cratered planets, imagining the creatures that could inhabit such worlds. Either that or they are microscopic insights of crevices within greater landscapes.
As a child, SJ was encouraged by two important women, her mother; who would always have pencil and paper in hand on outings; and her grandmother, ‘an artist in her own right’ who encouraged the young SJ to experiment with her paints, some of which, she is still in possession of some ten years later. Walton very eloquently explained to us how as a painter ‘it all feels so integral to who I am, I’m not sure if there’s a definitive beginning to it at all.’ Her obsession with painting only really developed in the last five or six years with her degree providing a considerable basis to expand on her obsession with texture and further interests after years of drawing and experimenting with ink and other media. She always knew that she wanted to be an artist of sorts. Jenny Saville and her application of paint is of huge interest to Walton, John Virtue’s ‘London Paintings’ also holds high regard however, Anselm Kiefer and his exhibition at the White Cube ‘il Mistero delle Catterdrali’ in 2012 proved to great effect in propelling SJ and her work to a more serious stature, moved in ways she cannot communicate, stating ‘it’s almost hypnotic.’
Not only is SJ a painter, but a photographer for self serving purposes and pleasure. SJ spends a lot of time looking at old walls and pavements; making photography a valuable research tool. She sees photography as a device to record the mundane, journeys and people; personal experiences, whereas painting takes a more definitive priority, allowing truer translation of expression.
It seems to us that SJ Walton blurs the boundaries of the man made and natural occurrence creating the sense that these works have developed over years. Layer on layer masks past images, hidden secrets and ‘had been’ paintings now lost and left to the imagination. Walton effortlessly encapsulates beautiful vulnerability and transience. There is an amalgamation of Cy Twombly; inspired by ancient Mediterranean history and geography, mythology and epic poetry; and ‘The Painter of Light’ William Turner. SJ Walton ‘visualises with living colours the silent space that exists between worlds,’ a quote used by John Berger regarding Twombly however fitting Walton’s work entirely. Whilst digging around on SJ’s website and tumblr, we found a wonderful response of hers; ‘I think it’s a huge problem in the art world that people feel they need to understand art/paintings to enjoy them (or not) its horribly exclusive!’ and we asked her to elaborate. A sensitive topic for SJ and, we’re sure, most artists out there. What she wrote was perfect and full of truth; here it is word for word;
"I have an issue with how exclusive the ‘art world’ is – think art speak and the like – and how inaccessible it makes it to a majority of the population, especially children and young people. Art speak has its place, but this is usually within academic circles which, again, are like an exclusive club; it creates this idea that to go to galleries, to appreciate art, then you need to be able to talk about it and articulate your reasons for dis/liking it. Also for exhibiting art there seems to be a need to have academic qualifications, as if this gives more validation to an artist’s skill from an institution/gallery’s perspective (which is ridiculous). Due to all of this people seem genuinely intimidated to come to galleries, which is really quite devastating.
Art should be for all, and you shouldn’t need a reason for liking or disliking it. It’s like asking someone why their favourite colour is purple, why their taste in food or clothing is so – it just is.
I volunteer in a local art gallery, the Black Swan Arts, and my favourite example of some of this is from sometime last year during the Open Arts competition (a variety of artists exhibit with different mediums and so on, it’s really great): a family was looking around and the dad just looked at one of the winning entries – a painting, kind of surrealist - and said “I don’t get it”, and his daughter just said quite simply “I think it’s beautiful”. I thought it was brilliant. There’s actually a company called Artolo that sponsored the Open Arts in 2013 whose ‘moto’ is Set Art Free, which is basically a comment on this, and aim to revolutionise how people buy and engage with art. People also say to me a lot “I don’t know much about art, but..” and well, I’m not especially musically inclined but it doesn’t stop me enjoying music, so neither should a supposed lack of knowledge inhibit a person enjoying art.
At the end of the day art should be an experience and it should move you, whichever way, free of any prerequisites to gain access to it be it as a practice or simply a viewer."
We couldn’t agree more.
Find more of SJ Walton’s work at www.sjwalton.com
Feature by Amber Scarlett / firstname.lastname@example.org