John Wynne - In the studio - Photo Credits Music Works

John Wynne

Canada 1957

Installation, Sound Art

John Wynne
John Wynne
March 16, 2016
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Sound as a medium is practically limitless. But, for some reason, as an artform it’s seldom used outside the music world. Sure, a number of artists use it to set an ambient while audiences view their craft, but in that everyday scenario, the sound is used as a means to an end, not as a subject of the exhibition. If you do not create music, can audio still be considered art? If you were to ask John Wynne that question, the answer would be a definite yes. This audio artist uses sound in combination with installations and the entire meaning of his art is based on what you can hear. In John’s case, all other elements are inferior to the audio experience his work provides.

John Wynne - Anspayaxw, 2015 - Photo Credits City of Surrey
John Wynne – Anspayaxw, 2015 – Photo Credits City of Surrey

Why Audio?

John’s work borders between documentation and abstraction. His diverse practice includes large-scale sound installations in galleries and public spaces, fine sculptural works and photographs that seem to produce sound. To create such installations you need excellent technical knowledge of how sound works. Luckily, John was well educated to a point where he can confidently claim to have full control over his art – which at times seems ungovernable. He is a proud owner of a PHD from Goldsmiths College, University of London. His first notable contact with an advanced audio design was in a theater when John was involved with the production of Andromache in Toronto, a play that was directed by Graham McClaren. It seems this was the moment John fell in love with audio performance, but more importantly, this valuable experience helped Wynne to start developing different methods of producing and controlling sounds. This play will prove to be a starting point that led to some of the most original sound performances of the last few years. Before he started working on his larger scale pieces, Wynne tried to create a way to literally draw on architecture using sounds. This was a success and the effects of his creation are more than impressive.

John’s attempt to draw using sound worked amazingly

John Wynne - Architectural sound drawning no.3, 2014 - Courtesy of Gazelli Art House
John Wynne – Architectural sound drawning no.3, 2014 – Courtesy of Gazelli Art House

Using Sound to Different Ends

After he was done with his involvement with the theater, John wanted to continue exploring the potentials of sounds. He needed a new challenge, something that would push his abilities to their maximum. Soon he realized that the only way to truly test himself was to make that opportunity himself. His greatest achievement was the famous Installation of 300 speakers, Pianola and vacuum cleaner and it became the first piece of sound art in the Saatchi collection and won him the 2010 British Composer Award for Sonic Art. This incredible work saw John set three hundred speakers that covered the entire floor of a giant room. But, as was said before, John’s work is based around sound, so even though the sight of these massive speakers is impressive, the focal point is the audio effects they produce. The project was designed in a way to have each speaker play different sounds and because none of them are synchronized with each other, the same composition will never repeat twice. After finishing the Installation, John’s later project revolved around his nation’s history. John wanted to revive the forgotten languages of indigenous Canadians. He criticized society’s role in taking care of such traditions and raised the awareness that the Canadians are losing a valuable part of their heritage. Speakers were placed behind photographs of the natives and sounds of people talking the languages of old were heard coming from behind of portraits. Wynne was also included in the project I Am Not Cancer. Working alongside the photographer Tim Wainwright, he wrote a book, made a 24-channel installation and an award-winning half-hour commission for BBC Radio 3 that was recognized by the public as very educational.

An incredible number of speakers in John’s installation

John Wynne - Installation for 300 speakers, Pianola and vacuum cleaner , 2009 - Photo Credits
John Wynne – Installation for 300 speakers, Pianola and vacuum cleaner , 2009 – Photo Credits

Reaching the Potential of Audio

It is incredible how much one can achieve using sound. People that dare to involve themselves in such endeavors are often thought of as pioneers – exploring the wild world of sound. Technology has been developed to a point where excellent editing of sound has been made available to an average Joe, let alone a man like John Wynne whose supreme knowledge of audio allows him to be break new ground in this field of art. We have come a long way from early Dada and the first experiments with strange noises and John is one of the artists that are paving the way for sound art to continue evolving. And just how much room is left for this branch of art to grow? Nobody knows for certain. We’ll just have to wait and see.

The artist is represented by Gazelli Art House in London, England.

John Wynne lives and works in London (England).

Featured Image: John Wynne – In the studio – Photo Credits Music Works
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015Anspayaxw Surrey Art Gallerysolo
2014Installation no 3 for high and low frequencies Gazelli Art House, Londonsolo
2014I Am Not the Cancer Travelling exhibition 10 cities, including London, Athens, Brussels, Nicosia, Basel, Dubaisolo
2014Hlysnan: The Notion of Politics of Listening Casino Luxembourg, Luxembourggroup
2013Anspayaxw, 12-channel photography and sound installationSatellite Gallery, Vancouversolo
2013 What is What and Cold Atlantic Blurred Edges, Frise Kunstlerhaus, Hamburg, Germanygroup
2012Anspayaxw, 12-channel photography and sound installation, solo show for Ethnographic Terminalia and the American Anthropological AssociationAlley Cat Gallery, San Franciscosolo
2012Installation no 2 for high and low frequencies Angus-Hughes Gallery, Londonsolo
2012Faster Higher Stronger, video, Open City Docs Film Festival, London and Incursions and Subversions: Art’s response to London’s Olympic Dreams Freeword Centre, Londongroup
2012Kispiox, ‘Sounds (Extra)Ordinary’ Centre for Art Tapes, Halifax, Canadasolo
2012Kispiox, ‘Sounds (Extra)Ordinary’ Galerie Sans Nom, Moncton, Canadasolo
2011Installation #1 for high and low frequencies, Air I Breathe Gazelli Art House, Rochelle School Gallery, Londonsolo
2010Installation for 300 speakers, player piano and vacuum cleaner The Saatchi Gallery, Londonsolo
2010Anspayaxw, installation, Border Zones: New Art Across Cultures The Museum of Anthropology, Vancouversolo
2010Anspayaxw, installation, Border Zones: New Art Across Cultures Ksan Museum Gallery, Hazelton, Canadasolo
2009Installation for 300 speakers, player piano and vacuum cleaner Beaconsfield Gallery, Londonsolo
2009Wireframe, installation Surrey Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canadasolo
2008Transplant, installation with Tim Wainwright The Nunnery Gallery Londongroup
2008Transplant, installation with Tim Wainwright Beldam Gallery, Brunel Universitygroup
2008Hearts, Lungs and Minds, radio piece commissioned by BBC Radio 3. Bronze Award Third Coast International Audio Festival, Chicagogroup
2008Someone Else and ITU, two installations with Tim Wainwright Gallery 1313, Torontogroup
2007Flow, installation with Tim Wainwright Old Operating Theatre Museum, Londongroup
2007Push comes to Shove, installation with Denise Hawrysio Fieldgate Gallery, Londongroup
2007ITU, video w surround sound, The Performance of Sound Old Operating Theatre Museum, Londongroup
2007ITU, video w surround sound, The Performance of SoundThe Art of Immersive Soundscapes, Regina, Canadagroup
2007ITU, video w surround sound, The Performance of SoundHering Video Edition, Bonn and Leverkusen, Germanygroup
2007Hearing Loss, installation VIVO Media Arts Centre, Vancouvergroup
2006230 Unwanted Speakers Hull Art Labsolo
2006Sound CAD, installation E:vent Gallery, Londonsolo
2005Hearing Voices Botswana National Museumsolo
2005Hearing Voices National Art Gallery of Namibiasolo
2005Hearing Voices Brunei Gallerysolo
2005Disappearing in the Kalahari Great Hall, Goldsmiths University and Sounding Out, University of Nottinghamsolo
2005Do(n’t), video and sound installation Victoria Square, Hull for the Humber Mouth Literary Festivalgroup
2005Response Time, public installation Kitchener City Hall for the Open Ears Festivalgroup
2004Fallender ton für 207 lautsprecher boxen, installation 2yK Galerie, Berlinsolo
2004Motion-triggered plastic carrier bags, installation Great Hall, Goldsmiths Collegesolo
2004Hmmm, installation for Noises Open Arts Platform, Londonsolo
2002Response Time, public installation Metro Hall Square, Torontosolo
2001Cry Wolf, installation Kiasma, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finlandsolo
2000Grasping and Clinging, installation with Denise Hawrysio Project 304, Bangkok, Thailandgroup