Chris Jenkins

Chris Jenkins workshop Grab Cat by Chris Jenkins Robot by Chris Jenkins
Scrrap Robot by Chris Jenkins
Desktop by Chris Jenkins

Christopher Jenkins, who places himself half-way between craftsman and fine artist, makes quirky, humanoid sculptures out of other people's rubbish. As well as being witty and original artworks in their own right, his ingenious sci-fi looking figures make an important statement about today's consumer society and the amount of waste we produce. 'I take what other people consider junk and give it a new value,' he says.


What attracts you to sculpture?

I originally trained as an illustrator at Falmouth College of Arts. I wanted to illustrate books but I didn't like working to other people's briefs. I wanted to tell my own stories so I started making sculptures based on stories I'd written myself. My sculpture and illustration work are linked as there was a narrative background to the illustration work and that still runs through my current work - it's an indirect narrative about personality, desire and waste.

Most of your sculptures are made out of found objects. Why do you enjoy working with this type of material so much?

To me, actually getting/finding the objects is an important part of the process. I used to live in Greenwich and raid scrap boatyards, going through the boats that were about to be scrapped and finding all sorts of things that had been left behind like old blue prints, rubber stamps, compass parts and fuses. More recently it's been bunkers, which bring new treasures. I try to include these types of objects in my work even if they are under several layers of paint. I like the way the quality of these discarded objects acts as their survival mechanism - I'm attracted to them because they were so well made in the first place and I try to give them a new personality by incorporating them into my work.

How important is re-cycling in your work?

What we throw away is a waste both of the materials and the time taken to make the items. I get a real kick out of re-using things other people have thrown away. I enjoy creating something with character out of things other people think is rubbish and giving them a new value. I'm a shameless skip rummager, I just can't help myself, and I think it's the way forward.

How do you put your sculptures together?

It's quite an organic process. I start by trying to create something useful from a group of various pieces - something sinewy like an armature or a joint - and then the pieces build themselves. I work on several at once and gradually they just start to look right. I usually have a whole desk covered with pieces and sometimes the old ones get turned into the new ones as I work. Although I do a lot of drawing, I don't design the pieces from start to finish, they just grow - there's a bit of a Frankenstein element to it.

Your sculptures always seem to be quite anthropomorphic, why are you so interested in the human form?

I need my sculptures to stem from something recognisable. They become constructs of people I know or my own personality, but I don't consciously try to make human forms - it's just what they become.

You do a lot of teaching work. How important a part of your professional life is this?

My educational work and my practice as an artist support each other, financially and creatively. I don't think I would be much of an educator if I didn't have my own practice, but I think I would miss out on the interaction with other people if I sat on my own in the studio all day. As a workshop facilitator or gallery educator, I travel about and meet a lot of different people.

What attracts you to teaching?

I really enjoy being thrown in at the deep end and being forced - for example - to look at and reassess an artist or medium I haven't looked at for a long time. Young children have a unique vision and often come up with great ideas and I really enjoy seeing what they come up with. I get inspired working with them and get a lot of satisfaction out of helping them explore their ideas.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to do more outdoor work. I work with another artist, Tim Johnson making outdoor sculpture trails, domes and shapes out of sustainable materials like hazel and willow. We've just started a collective called 'Billhook and Windeyman' and I'm looking forward to the projects we have this spring. I would really like to build a full-size, permanent living stage out of willow. After 50 years it would be amazing. I'd like to have a solo show somewhere, I haven't had one yet. I want to travel about more and perhaps work abroad.