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Features / Jono’s work on show at prestigious V&A

Shetland artist Jono Sandilands. Photo: Samphat Photography.

A SHETLAND printmaker and visual artist currently living in Bristol has had some of his work exhibited at the world-renowned Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Jono Sandilands showed off his forward-thinking Never! and Playable Prints projects at the museum on Friday as part of a monthly night dedicated to contemporary visuals and design.

Part of his display was a useable pinball machine he built from the “remains of retro mechanisms and a complex matrix of electronics” to showcase traditional and modern printmaking.

He also exhibited his Playable Prints project, which saw Sandilands create artwork with electronic games embedded into them.

The artist left Shetland for a second time in 2013 to study an MA in printmaking in Bristol, and he is now in residence at the city’s digital creativity centre Watershed.

Sandilands, who described his work as a “crossover of design, printmaking and technology” said having the one-off exhibition at the V&A was “unbelievable” and a “bizarre experience”.

He lined up with a number of other artists as the arts museum explored the theme of ‘parallel worlds’ through technology.

“It was one of these things you never expect to happen, but it was born from a network of smaller coincidences,” Sandilands said.

“The whole day went by in such a blur. I drove there and back the same day. We had a tiny window of time to load in through the busy gift shop then install in a gallery which was still open to the public. Every moment was as unbelievable as the next.

A useable pinball machine Jono built from the "remains of retro mechanisms and a complex matrix of electronics” to showcase traditional and modern printmaking. Photo courtesy of V&A Museum.

“My work exhibited in the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art alongside a collection of traditional woodblock prints. One print is believed to be by the man credited with the 1765 revolution in Japanese woodblock printing, Suzuki Harunobu. In another room, Playstation demoed the latest VR games next to The Raphael Cartoons.

“You can imagine it was quite busy due to the draw of such a well curated and organised event. I’m humbled at a few points during the evening there was a queue to play my little games too.”

Sandilands said his pinball project was a follow-on from his interactive Art of Ping Pong exhibition, which visited Shetland’s Bonhoga Gallery in 2012.

He added that the sights and sounds of pinball machines have a nostalgic place in his heart.

“I have a blurry memory of a machine upstairs in Don Leslie’s when it was a cafe in it’s previous life. On my tip toes looking down on that alluring world as the ball hurtled over the wooden playfield.

“Since researching, I’ve been on a bit of a pinball tour around the country. I’ve visited countless bars and arcades as well as getting a rare look at some the many home collections.

“I took on work experience with the Wales based Heighway Pinball, the UK’s only pinball manufacturer. I even started playing in the league. Right now I’m ranked 121st in UK and 5216th in the world.”

Sandilands said he never creates a new piece of work or a project without envisaging it going on show in his native Shetland.

In fact, he often dreams up how he could put together a printmaking exhibition showcasing some of the isles’ top talents.

“I’ve been curating an imaginary printmaking exhibition in my head. There couldn’t be an exhibition of that nature without Paul Bloomer or Howard Towll’s woodcut prints,” he said.

“Ruth Brownlee’s aquatints, because I want to see more of her printmaking work. More recent art school graduates Amy Gear’s etchings and Louise Davidge’s lithographs. Every year I notice more and more Shetland College graduates using printmaking in their work. 

“I’m sure there are more of us printers out there, I’m so out of the loop now. There’s always a strong sense of something exciting happening in the Shetland art scene.”