I live and work in a barn on the edge of the New Forest and I’m steeped in the natural beauty of my surroundings. I frequently walk over the chalk downs and have become acutely aware of the landscape continually changing according to light, climate and the rotating seasons. Invariably, I return to my studio, laden with all sorts of harvested objects to add to my materials bank: sticks, rusted metal fragments, flints, baler twine and tarpaulin, chalk, clay and seed pods. Forest walks provide fallen branches of chestnut, yew, beech, pine and ancient oak. I select materials according to their aesthetic appeal, overall form, colour, textural quality, scale and state of decay. The resulting work, I hope, is a celebration of nature and her processes. I want to highlight discarded and overlooked objects and transform them into a new reality. I consciously arrest or interrupt the process of decay to emphasise the beauty of nature’s continual changing states. By removing objects from their setting and reconfiguring them, I am attempting to challenge our understanding of, and relationship with, the environment and its resources.
Perhaps we have lost a certain respect for the natural world and have developed a dysfunctional and fractured relationship with nature. As a consequence we tend to merely give nature a brief glance. Living in the heart of the countryside over the past few years has made me aware of just how much value we attach to consumerism and materialism. This has led me also to incorporate unwanted, man-made objects into the sculptures such as children’s toys, building blocks, jigsaw puzzle pieces and old baking tins. These have certain resonances and previous biographies that connect with my own childhood memories. I suppose I want to comment on the passing of time and the deterioration of memory since I see a direct parallel with this and the cyclical decay of natural forms.
Having received no formal art education I don’t often use conventional art materials. Similarly my working methods have evolved naturally while resolving formal problems as I encounter them, rather than utilising the technical tricks taught at art school. My sculptures are usually on a small, intimate scale since I want them to be scrutinised at close quarters. Chance marks, abrasions, stains and scratches are already present and I try to incorporate these rather than transform my materials into something other than what they already are; I want to give them a new vitality and purpose.
Johnny Brophy, 2017