My work begins as a visual diary, which rapidly gives way to a form of autoethnographic painting; I create pictorial fictions that conflate my personal narratives with the voices of others. Images and phrases gathered in books become the building blocks for surreal hybrids, which then become scaffolding for larger drawn compositions, then paintings, videos and ultimately installations. My early work was concerned with painting and although I now work across a diverse range of media that includes artist’s books, sculpture, print-making, animation, moving image and Virtual Reality the way in which I use these media to interrogate my subjects is still fundamentally pictorial. I build space out of colour, gesture and line in a way that is distinct from sculptural, architectural or cinematic space.

However, I have often used spatial design to curate my diverse output into a larger whole and help it find a place in the world. Initially this took the form of gin bars that I would host. Dressed as a fool my presence would empower audiences to ask direct questions of me about my work, which then enabled me to disseminate my ideas more effectively. My interest in generosity extends to using popular imagery to deliver non-mainstream ideas to viewers in ways that they will find entertaining. As host my performances are a form of drag that is jestered as opposed to gendered; this has the effect of producing a new kind of queer space in which discussions about existing subjects can take place in unforeseen ways. I have referred to the production values that I use to achieve this as "shonky", by which I mean the unfashionable, the awkward, the provisional, the non-canonical and the imbalanced.

Around 2012 I began to apply my maximalist approach to the subject of HIV in what became Alien Sex Club (2015). ASC addressed HIV as a crisis of representation and challenged the predominantly 'Queer Minimalist' genre that has been used to address the subject from Felix Gonzalez-Torres onwards. Holism characterises my thinking. My deepened interest in viruses has lead me to work firstly with Professor Alison Rodger on ASC and subsequently with Professor Greg Towers and his lab on CAPSID (2018), which addressed the virus as a nanomachine instead of a social problem. Collaboration has become a scaling-up of my matryoska-like artistic practice to an interdisciplinary scale.

My artistic practice is increasingly defined by this complex approach to working at multiple scales simultaneously. Collaborating with scientists has informed my current interest in viruses of the mind. I take an increasingly Darwinist view of human production informed by Dawkins notion of the meme as a unit of cultural replication equivalent to the gene in biology. I see myself as a breeder of images, applying scientific analogies to the selective pressure of designing art in order to increase its 'fitness'. In this sense I am a kind of rare breeds art farmer using top-down design processes, bottom-up notions of emergence and algorithmic processes of machine learning in combination in order to evolve the next generation of my own work faster and more efficiently.

John Walter (b. Dartford, 1978) is a visual artist working across a diverse range of media including painting, moving image, installation and curating. He studied at Chelsea School of Art and Design, The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, The Slade School of Fine Art and undertook his doctoral studies at The University of Westminster graduating in 2017. In 2006 he was artist in residence at KIAC in Dawson City, Canada. Between 2006-8 he was Sainsbury Scholar at The British School at Rome. He was a participant in Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2012. In 2017 he undertook a residency at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. Wellcome and Arts Council England have supported his work. He was awarded the 2016 Hayward Curatorial Open for Shonky: The Aesthetics of Awkwardness. The Arts Council Collection and The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool have collected his work. Recent exhibitions include: Brexit Gothic (DKUK, 2019); Crep Suzette - A Shoe Show (with Bert McLean, LUVA, 2019); The Fourth Wall (Look Again Festival Aberdeen, 2019); Booze Guitar (Matt’s Gallery, 2018); CAPSID (CGP and HOME, 2018); Somewhere in Between (Wellcome Collection, 2018); Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity (Walker Art Gallery, 2017); The Zany Capsid (Hardwick Gallery, 2017).

Portrait by Grant Anderson