Juju, painting, performance and a very lovely shed

‘I find day-to-day, conversational poetry casts a warm light on an otherwise very calculated, systematic, clinical and scientific world’, says artist David Shillinglaw.

David Shillinglaw
David Shillinglaw

Chatting to him last weekend at this year’s Latitude Festival, we’re very much in a world that’s far from being clinical or systematic.

Step inside the happy shamanic voodoo  juju shed. Go on! Do it!. Image: Arlen Figgis
Step inside the happy shamanic voodoo juju shed. Go on! Do it!. Image: Arlen Figgis

In fact, we’re in the middle of a woodland – the ‘faraway forest’ – where Shillinglaw has spent the past few days creating his beautiful, colourful, and charmingly eccentric shed installation.

Part of the mural surrounding the shed. Image: Arlen Figgis
Part of the mural surrounding the shed. Image: Arlen Figgis

The artist was commissioned to create a mural, but moved the idea to also encompass a shed filled with paintings, objects (many of which are from his recent StolenSpace Gallery exhibition), a customised piano and a record player, on which visitors can choose from a selection of records to play.

A totem-like piece from around the installation
A totem-like piece from around the installation

The paintings across the shed and mural are partly formed from ideas submitted by festival-goers, which are either told to Shillinglaw directly or written down on paper.

From the shed interior. Image: Arlen Figgis
From the shed interior. Image: Arlen Figgis

The concept, Shillinglaw tells us, is loosely inspired by his recent travels to Gambia, where he had an informative natter with a shaman.

‘I met a shaman who gave me a talking to about how wonderful the universe is,’ says Shillinglaw. ‘He blesses a piece of wood, which gets made into a juju to protect you. He holds a mirror which he looks into and looks at you….it was an interesting experience.

‘His house was built next to a river – it was a bit like a makeshift wooden shed with fabric hanging from the ceiling.’

Elements-based shed doodlings
Elements-based shed doodlings

As such, Shillinglaw’s Latitude installation uses Gambian fabric on the roof, and takes cues from the idea of creating an ‘ambiguous, nonspecific centre of worship,’ says Shillinglaw.

He adds, ‘A lot of stylistics choices are inspired by Africa, South America and ancient world, things like Egyptian hieroglyphics. It’s a mixture of ancient vs contemporary.’

From the shed interior
From the shed interior

As we chat, people are curiously perusing the mural, bumbling in and out of the shed and curiously examining its contents. It’s as much a piece of performance as it is something to look at – an aesthetic Shillinglaw was keen to explore.

‘I think it holds people’s attention in a way you can’t just visually with a painting’, he says. ‘I consider myself a painter but I’ve always been interested in installations and performances. [The shed] is very much an installation; me painting it for four days is a performance.

‘[The disciplines] are different planets revolving around the same sun in my mind, it’s all part and parcel of recontextualising an idea. The more people that can interact with it the better.’

Advice from the shed's painted wooden panels
Advice from the shed’s painted wooden panels

For more information on David Shillinglaw’s work visit http://cargocollective.com/davidshillinglaw

A happy shed visitor
A happy shed visitor

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