Walking into Shane Waltener's studio there is a particular aroma, sweet and fruity and not unpleasant. We try to track down its source.
Is it the row of pollarded trees, waiting to be transformed? In fact, it turns out to be the rolls of jute Waltener has been using to make his large site-specific works, most recently in the grounds of Nottingham Castle where it is intricately woven through the trees.
The installation has not been without problems. "There is a clash between the pathways I am creating and the squirrel highways", says Waltener, undismayed. "Fragility is really important; it makes it precious and adds value. It is just a piece of throw-away string and so if it doesn't last it becomes even better. If they are there forever, people take them for granted."
Waltener was born in 1966 and studied in Belgium. He currently lives and works in London where he also teaches at the University of the Arts. He is clear that this studio is not the only place where he works: "When I am on a bus I think about work and the bus becomes my studio. So work happens here and elsewhere".
In the past few years the artist has workshopped with diverse organisations and individuals. A collaborative work with Entelechy Arts involved writing and drawing with people who had suffered strokes. "I became their hands. I created patterns that were then bonded onto a table, mapping out their memories. That said something about them."
His objective he says, is "to give value to what is discarded. Of course you will make something nice if you use gold, but it is not a very big challenge". In the past he has used sugar for graffiti tagging and panty nylon for his larger crocheted and knitted webs.
Recently he gave himself the conceptual task of making an artwork a day and posting it on his blog, dailymades.blogspot.com.
"I have notebooks and do basic diagrams and mostly write. I do very little sketching – the sketching is done in three dimensions, the daily-mades are really the sketches." Composed of everyday materials – paper, pencils, paper-clips, vegetables – they are often springboards to bigger works elsewhere, but they "add a rigour for the practice and give me focus."
While we sit Waltener plays with some paper, effortlessly plaiting and weaving the scrap into a complicated sculptural form. Weaving is his most recent passion, taking over from the sugar craft that preceded it. "Weaving is about rhythm and making," he says. This is art that reaches out and is inclusive by its nature.
Waltener's site-specific installations and performances are often joyful, bridging those gaps between what is considered craft and the high arts.
Shane Waltener, Panoramic Pathways (Nottingham Lace), continues as part of Make Believe, Re-Imagining History and Landscape, Nottingham Castle Museum until 29 September, nottinghamcity.gov.uk; dailymades.blogspot.comReuse content