Born in Knutsford in 1965, Jo gained a BA hons degree in Fine Art, specialising in sculpture at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, University of Dundee in 1987. She then gained an MA in Fine Art from The University of Ulster in 1989.
Jo Risley’s early work was an exploration of the human condition, in particular looking at the emotional impact of infertility. I drew from images of Baroque furniture, developing ideas initially through drawing and printmaking. I integrated found objects, such as driftwood, chair legs, lamp shades with fabric and papier mache to create sculptural forms where the human form was represented by furniture. The juxtaposition of hard and soft materials recalled flesh on bone and was intended to convey human frailty. Many of the forms had a womb like quality which is still present in much of my current work.
Jo is currently exploring forms which are derived from botany and biology but fabricated using geometric shapes to create strange otherworldly objects which are reminiscent of munitions and spacecraft.
"I want to reflect some of the anxiety I feel about the times we live in and the uncertainty about the future. I am reminded of Pandora's Box, the lid has been opened and chaos has been unleashed. The unchecked rise and reach of social media means we live in a world where we must constantly question the sources of the information we receive and be alert to how social media can be manipulated to subvert democracy. My current work explores this state of increased suspicion and sense of the invisible enemy in our midst.
"Pollen Bomb, "Astropod" and "Space Flower" were all created using multiple triangular shapes and mathematical precision. They hint at infiltration, spyware, malware, bots and viruses. "Pollen Bomb" was based on a pollen grain form. Its size and use of rusted Cor-ten steel alludes to a sea mine and creates an air of menace. "Astropod" uses a similar format. It is based on a virus but the form has been mutated by extending the points gradually from one side to the other. This gives a sense of progression as in an opening flower bud. However, as the points are angular and sharp, they convey a more mechanical and sinister purpose. The pod like form has an open hatch with a camera shutter-like frame through which one can peer. "Space Flower" is a flower/pod like form, part exotic jungle flower and part space pod, reminiscent of a "transformer" with opening flaps through which the inside is revealed. It gives the impression that it will evolve through mathematical replication to become something else."