Wellington artist Johnny Turner sculpts from hard volcanic and metamorphic rock. Created over thousands of years from massive pressure and resultant heat, the formation of metamorphic rocks sees an initially soft stone is transformed into another more refined form, of heightened purity and a phenomenally durable essential nature. Turner sees this transformation as being of powerful significance to his work and in the undertaking of artists to transform their raw materials into enduring objects.
Living and working in his Wellington studio, Turner has been mentored by sculptors he admires but is otherwise largely self-taught. Inspiration arises from the artist's personal beginnings, the passage of time and the reuse of materials drawn from deep within the earth as well as an ongoing fascination and research into sources as diverse as classical history, indiginous mythology and the Japanese aesthetic. Creating works which appear perfectly poised in space or emerging upwards from the earth, Turner often reinvents classical forms with his contemporary interpretation, referencing history, memory and ancestral provenance within each work.
Turner works with and against the notions of hardness, weight and coldness of marble and stone to bring out the soft detail and colouring of each unique piece – graduating grains, soft, speckled colourings and contrasting textures run through his works. Turner retains and enhances the natural properties of each individual stone by allowing form to 'reveal itself' rather than imposing the form upon a piece. Recently, flowering forms and cocoon shapes emerge in his work suggesting the release or flourishing of something from within an encasement and ideas of resurrection and rejuvenation. Turner has also concerned himself with notions of ‘flight’ in his works – this is seen in the lightness of forms and removal of mass from the base of his pieces – which removes a limiting sense of heaviness from the stone and completes its transformation.
Turner’s passion for his medium drives him to undertake wonderfully realised works of a monumental weight and scale. The artist’s attention to detail and his love for surface ensures that each piece is perfectly finished through hours of hand polishing rather than the application of synthetic and machined finishes, a practice which subtly enhances the tactile properties of the stone. The sleekness of these works and their precise balance serves to make them undeniably man-made, but the smooth, curving forms and seductively tactile surfaces refer to an ideal of organic perfection – the unquestionable beauty to be found in the forms of nature.
Awards and distinctions:
Invited Exhibitor - ‘PERSONA. A Tribute Exhibition dedicated to John Bevan Ford’ (2006); Invited Exhibitor - Shapeshifter, Lower Hutt (2004-2006);
First prize, New Zealand Sculpture Award, Waikato (2005);
Te Kupenga International Sculpture Symposium, New Plymouth (2004);
Finalist, COCA (Centre of Contemporary Art) Art Awards (2004);
Winner, Forsyth Barr Canterbury Art Award (2004);
International Stone Symposium, Roundtop Centre d’Art, Maine, USA (2004);
Tareitanga International Sculpture Symposium, Wellington (2003);
Winner, Waikato Outdoor Sculpture Award (2003);
Gold Medal, Sculpture Feature, Mercedes Benz Marquee (2002).
Premier Award ,Manukau Auckland Sculpture Awards, (2006)
Hong Kong -Public Park sculpture (2008)
Russia -International symposium (2009,2010,2011)
Germany-Public Sculpture City of Memmels (2011)
France-Public Park Sculpture City of La Tour du Pin (2011)
USA-Entranceway sculpture for University of Maine (2012)
Wallace Art Awards NZ -Finalist (2017)