Shonky @ Dundee Contemporary Arts

Artist John Walter seeks to organise his own work around a group show of contemporary and established artists, and positions their work as united under the "aesthetics of awkwardness"

Review by Aphra Pilkington | 19 Apr 2018

Under no more modest a premise than defining a new genre in which to situate his own art practice, John Walter has rallied various international contemporary artists to partake in his ‘shonky’ world: an audacious quasi-defunct funhouse of art, installed in the galleries of Dundee Contemporary Arts. 

Shonky: The Aesthetics of Awkwardness, which is this year’s Hayward Curatorial Touring exhibition, draws a skittish line around the precarious, the freaky and the boisterous to demarcate Walter's style and those who fall into it. Delighting in the gaudy, Walters connects Niki de Saint Phalle’s statuettes and immense prints of Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s architectural façades to the dislocated on-screen environments of Jacolby Satterwhite and the collective, Plastique Fantastique. The show is extroverted, tongue-in-cheek and densely colourful, serving a dose of hedonism whose ensuing wave of nausea is expressly relished, if not required.

Particularly hard to resist are the cheeky provocations made by Tim Spooner’s droid puppets with their twitching beaks and tentpole limbs – yet their evidently programmed flirtations expose the exchange as a seductive ploy. If there is sincerity left wanting, it is provided for by the sensitivity of Andrew Logan’s idolatry busts; Divine in Heaven is one of multiple affectionate homages to queer icons, fusing mosaic and photography.

Walter positions the works in Shonky as deviant from and challenging to stylistic conventions of contemporary art through their craft-based processes and intentionally defective goals. However, when faced with this sense of cutting edge curatorialism, an argument lingers whether this style had not already been long recognised and traded as an aesthetic of currency and validity. [Aphra Pilkington]

Until 27 May, Dundee Contemporary Arts, free