Born in Wrexham, Wales in 1974, lives and works in London. Since completing an MA Painting at the University of the Arts, London, in 2002, Jools' practice has evolved into predominately conceptual, installation and construction work that has been widely exhibited within the UK and recently internationally. Recent exhibitions include Precious, 2010, Hove Museum & Art Gallery (National Touring Show 2010-11) UK; Unsound Practice, 2009, Dutch Kills Gallery, New York; National Eisteddfod, 2009, Bala, UK; Artworks Open 2009, Artworks Space, London; A Patch of Grass Painted to Look like a Rock, IPS, Gent, Belgium. In 2009 he was selected for a Sustainable Art Award, BASH Studio, London and for the Hun Gallery International 2009, Hun Gallery, New York; short-listed for the biennial Sir Leslie Joseph Young Artist Award 2009, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, UK; Concrete Dreams, APT Gallery, London; Shortlisted for the touring show Profilo d’Arte Painting Award 2008, Museo della Permanente, Milan, Italy.
Jools Johnson by Matt Price writing for the exhibition catalogue Urban Origami, PM Gallery & House (2nd July – 29th August 2010) Published by ARTTRA in collaboration with PM Gallery & House. ISBN 978-0-9557496-1-2. Page 12-13.
The artist’s use of such cheap and disposable materials not only draws attention to society’s rampant consumerism and often irreverent attitude to the planet’s resources, but also makes an interesting connection to architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas’s notion of ‘Junkspace’: ‘If space-junk is the human debris that litters the universe, Junk-Space is the residue mankind leaves on the planet. The built […] product of modernization is not modern architecture but Junkspace’.1.
The idea of Junkspace is equally relevant to the work of Jools Johnson, who, uses recycled materials to create artworks that can appear like architectural constructions and miniature cities. Rather than paper, however, Johnson’s materials are salvaged from defunct computers, the components of which he laboriously dismantles before reconfiguring them to create his sculptural pieces and installations. In an ongoing body of work started in 2007, God Lives in Detail, Johnson presents a variety of floor, plinth and wall-mounted pieces that look like models for sets of some fantastical science-fiction movie. In reusing the computer parts – made from innumerable types of plastics and metals originally designed for specific purposes far beyond the knowledge of the average PC user – Johnson devises a model world that is rich in imagination and full of space for our own imaginations to run wild: processors, chips and circuitry can become a holiday resort, metal casing can be transformed into a barn or silo, or a variety of curiously shaped plastic components refashioned as a futuristic industrial complex. And you don’t need to be an architect or engineer to enjoy engaging with the works in this way. With a work specially created for the exhibition, God Lives in Detail XVIII (2010), Johnson presents a tower made entirely from computer parts, with platforms, levels and architecture-like appendages throughout.With miniature epic proportions, the tower presents a disconcertingly dystopian vision of the built environment - a world in which the organic and natural are replaced entirely by synthetic materials and machine-made shapes and forms, like a Tower of Babel for the era of electronic computing.
Developing out of this piece is Aurora Angelorum (2010) in which the artist has constructed visionary cities built around ‘lakes’ out of computer screws and casing. From beneath the work, blue and white lights pulsate through a sequence of settings, sending beams of light upwards, illuminating the screws as if they were facades of skyscrapers and tower blocks. In the darkened gallery space, it creates the impression of a cityscape by night, the burgeoning modern metropolis that one might expect to see in Beijing or Dubai. The lights dance on the ceiling of the gallery like searchlights hitting clouds.
Dramatic, beautiful and unnerving in equal measure, it is a work that finds its apotheosis in Pulse of a Hundred Suns (2010) – a piece in which hundreds of screws of all shapes and sizes are arranged in a long, thin, panoramic skyline, illuminated by myriad bulbs behind the translucent backdrop of a strip light unit. With more than a passing reference to the familiar iconography of the Manhattan skyline silhouetted against a sunset, Pulse of a Hundred Suns is an unsettling and ethereal representation of humankind’s physical presence on the Earth, but seemingly in a solar system very different to our own. That Johnson’s work leads into metaphysical and existential territory is made clear in his fourth work in the show, Will anyone miss me..? (2010) in which the words of the title are spelt out in lights, configured in the style of the artist’s own handwriting. From out of his peopleless cityscapes, Johnson presents a lone voice that articulates a fundamental question about human existence.
1. Koolhaas, Rem. Junkspace, October, Vol. 100, Spring 2002, p.175.
Matt Price is a writer, editor and curator based in London and Birmingham. Formerly Managing Editor of Flash Art, Milan, and Deputy Editor of ArtReview, London, he has also written for publications including A-n, Art Monthly, Frieze and Modern Painters. http://matthprice.com
"Technology, and our love/hate relationship with it, is one of the main themes of Jools Johnson's work. The installations reuse every single nut, bolt and screw of old computers and reconfigure them into objects of strange yet familiar beauty. His work has a playful quality, as though he had re-imagined these pieces of metal and plastic - unthinkingly consigned to the scrap heap by the vast majority of us - through the eyes of a child. The result is a group of meticulous dioramas that bear witness to the information that we collect and then discard.Johnson finds use for the detritus of our information driven society.In his hands a pile of old circuit boards and the workaday plastic shell and metal casings for a computer screen or hard drive have new meaning."
Angela Roberts is a freelance writer currently living and working in Basel and Zurich.
Isobar opens at Fieldgate Gallery
“Jools Johnson’s amazing sculptures ‘God lives in the Detail II & III’ are recycled from old computer parts. They are evocative of a sense of iconic exploration, traveling or architecture we rarely connect with in an information laid environment. The transformation from computer part to sculpture is indistinguishable besides from ‘enter’ written under a small ocean liner. Mounted on the wall (a sign of their static nature) one has to peer upwards to get to the detail of which the title allures to”.
Isobar at Fieldgate Gallery
“In contrast to these artist's fascination with nature Jools Johnson addresses man-made technology. His constructions using redundant computer parts stand as monuments to his own mixed feelings about the act of staring at pixelated screens for hours on end. With an incredible economy he creates sublime forms with perhaps just three or four components. There is a touch of George Lucas in the aesthetic of these pieces though this is apparently not conscious on Johnson's part. These works are fixed to the wall using screws from the same machines he dismantles, which creates a pleasing circularity of process. Another entirely separate piece of work by the same artist appears from a distance as a strip of green Astroturf. It seems that the 'grass' is slightly too long and it is not until we are much closer that it becomes apparent that the carpet is made from wooden golf tees; 12,000 of them in two shades of green. There is something almost religiously ritualistic about the iterative manner in which this piece has come to be”.