John Shankie’s art takes everyday processes and materials and squeezes a kind of poetry from them. Whether working with film, drawings, sculpture, text, music or social events he finds a rich seam of meaning that allows the simplest everyday actions to acquire a deeper emotional or social resonance. Shankie’s works often have a domestic focus. Cooking a meal, folding a napkin or recording a simple phone call have all featured in his work. In the home, or outside it, his art has often involved acts of nurturing and generosity.
For the landmark international exhibition Trust at Tramway, Glasgow in 1996, Shankie cooked a meal for 150 people with the artist Rikrit Tiravanija. At the Glasgow International festival in 2012, he worked in collaboration with the artist Andrew Miller, in the project No Meal Is Complete Without Conversation. Throughout the festival the artists cooked and served lunch daily in a Glasgow tenement where everything –from the food on the table to a specially designed dishtowel –was considered part of the artwork. Guests were encouraged to talk together about life and art and the conversation was recorded. The meal was free for anyone who booked; members of the public shared the experience with artists and visiting art professionals as peers and equal participants.
As a former engineer the artist is interested in making, mechanics and technical processes, but he explores them for their ability to express ideas or emotions by using them in unexpected ways. A work such as untitled (freezer) from 1995 takes a simple idea, that of placing clothes in a freezer instead of food. But the result is poignant, for the items on the shelves are the artists’ own clothes and those of his family. The work asks us how we might keep our memories or if it is possible to preserve a poignant moment in our lives.
For GENERATION, Shankie is working at the Park Gallery in Falkirk exploring issues of memory and remembrance with a particular emphasis on the First World War Centenary. He uses simple processes such as drawing, brickwork and preservation to explore private and public legacies of the conflict.