Walton Wainwright, a creator with a seemingly limitless imagination, is our newest exhibiting artist. His contributions to Second Life, especially through his work in ContraptioN, have captivated audiences for well over a decade. Today, we aim to uncover the story behind his artistic evolution and explore what continues to drive his creativity.
Marina Münter: You’re an illustrator in the physical world, and the majority of your 14 years in the grid has been dedicated to ContraptioN, which has its 12th anniversary now in August. Seeing how prolific your work here is, I can’t help but wonder if coming into Second Life was a way of expanding the work you’ve been doing previously or if you landed here by accident and it all just unfolded.
Walton Wainwright: I stumbled upon Second Life by chance, having come across an ad for it while reading articles online and assuming it was some kind of game. It was only then that I comprehended its potential as a creative avenue, akin to showcasing artwork in a public community, but with interactivity and a three-dimensional aspect. From then on, I was illustrating for publications and freelancing in real-life, while nurturing my passion for 3D modelling as a pastime within Second Life. Here, I could undertake all those endeavours which eluded me in my real-life vocation, free from constraints and unencumbered by the need for approval from colleagues and superiors.
As you said, it all just unfolded, and Second Life's been able to keep me from having to rely on 'middle men' to determine what is good and bad, and sell my work directly to people so they can enjoy what they have.
Difficult Conundrum: Steampunk often portrays a sense of rebellion against industrialization and its negative impacts on society and the environment. How does your art align with this idea, and what messages or values do you hope to convey through your work?
WW: A significant portion of my work in ContraptioN expresses the problems found in a hyper-industrialised world, and it serves as a satirical counterpoint to the frequently romanticised embellishment found within the steampunk genre. We make it a point to reference the numerous bloodied and mistreated hands that have played a role in the creation of our products' dark nature, war themes, narrative descriptions, music and voice acted dialogue. Staff in my store often berate people for being poor and paying them peanuts, which is all in good fun! We don’t really believe that, but the humour carries well with our patrons.
AMALGAMATION is not related to my main line of work in ContraptioN, however, there exists a pervasive fascination with death among individuals, yet simultaneously, a profound fear resides within them when confronted with the direct gaze of mortality. This fear is often the culprit that pulls most people away from acknowledging this reality, often hidden behind ideal or comical representations. I suppose it’s kind of like a rebellion against that, and I don’t expect people to love it.
MM: One often overlooked aspect regarding the use of blood, body fluids, exposed flesh and whatnot is the mastery behind the artwork; craftsmanship, context, composition, balance, etc. Blood also has been used a lot in the so called “primal” rituals; and some would defend the employment of such as an eccentric way of turning art into a ritual through the symbology of incorporating a shared belief system. Is there an utter motif for the creative choices you took in AMALGAMATION?
WW: For me, I don’t think AMALGAMATION entails deep symbolic connotations tied to rituals or beliefs. Rather, it is a personal fascination that has evolved over the span of more than a decade, influenced by intriguing findings made during research for storytelling—real visuals that have remained deeply ingrained in my mind, never fully dissipating over time. I could try to make it more ‘acceptable’ by changing the colours or masking it behind analogies, but that would defeat the purpose in noting that these gruesome visuals are, in the same way as death, a normal and fascinating reality.
DC: Second Life offers a global audience and the potential for collaboration with other artists. Have you collaborated with other artists or creators within Second Life, and how has this collaboration influenced the overall creative process and the final outcome?
WW: I have had the privilege of collaborating with a variety of creators, including content creators like Cerberus Xing and artists such as Bryn Oh. It’s often an interesting experience where I get to have a glimpse of their thought processes behind the scenes, learn their perspectives, and get to know them as a person. My collaboration style is less controlled and more of a ‘you do your part, and I’ll do mine’ after some discussions on the goal, which often results in an interesting combination of things in the set, thereby placing quite a lot of trust in my collaborators as a result. Furthermore, it is an immensely enjoyable experience as well, as it opens doors to embark on larger-scale projects that I would typically hesitate to undertake for fear of burning out.
DC: Finally, can you share with us what’s next for Walton Wainwright?
WW: I look forward to doing more personal exhibits with GBTH and other curators while continuing to expand our little shop, perhaps with more ambitious projects lined up. We’ve got an instrumental music album that may appear in the next year or two, and I hope to focus more on content that reflects back on the story that’s been going on in ContraptioN, with more immersive experiences to take our visitors to that realm.
Apart from that, I will likely retreat to my cosy tree hollow, where I can find solace and tranquillity. Perhaps I'll let out a few hoots to assert my territorial presence and ensure its security. And, as a result of having recently enjoyed a satisfying lunch, I might even regurgitate a pellet or two, a natural occurrence for human beings like me.
Thank you so much for having me, being so open to my thoughts and ideas, and dealing with my shenanigans!
AMALGAMATION opens on June 30th, 1pm SLT @GBTH