Interview: Shy Layers

The Brief


Shy Layers is the musical alias of artist JD Walsh, whose sound installations, video works, sculptures, and paintings have been exhibited internationally and written about in Artforum and Sculpture Magazine, among other publications. After recording a pair of six-song EPs, Shy Layers released his self-titled debut album in 2016, which was described by Pitchfork as ‘one of the year’s great, unexpected pleasures’. His follow-up, Midnight Marker, was released in May 2018 on Beats In Space.

Which visual artwork about transformation would you recommend?
Nostalgia by Hollis Frampton. A standard bearer of structuralist film, it’s a perfect weaving of memory, representation, and visual dissonance.

Which animated film would you recommend?
The Possible Fog of Heaven, directed by John Knecht. Produced at the late great Experimental Television Center in Owego, New York, Elvis speaks from the drugged-out afterlife in a nineties lo-fi animation.

Which 20th-century film would you recommend?
Boomerang by Nancy Holt and Richard Serra. A spoken improvisation regarding perception, a short-circuit of cognitive systems using a simple constraint.

Which work of journalism would you recommend?
‘A Prayer’s Chance’ by Brian Goldstone. An artful examination of mental health in West Africa speaks about religion, empathy, economics, and the blending of ancient and modern beliefs.


The following questions relate to our Perspectives column, in which two writers respond to an artwork that they are experiencing for the first time.

Can colours portray information as effectively as speech?
Speech seems far more effective, varied, nuanced, specific, and deep. Colour can certainly portray information, but humans’ creativity with speech is truly mind-boggling.

Do photographs always reflect the mind of the photographer?
No. A photograph is simply a mechanical process, like an audio recording. Artists turn them into art.

Does only ‘fine’ art belong in galleries?
Yes, but the gallery is a framing mechanism and context generator which will transform almost anything into ‘fine’ art.

Rule of Three

The following questions relate to our Rule of Three column, for which each article includes a trio of artworks that share an association with a single word.

Which composition associated with the word ‘Parallel’ would you recommend?
Threshold Music by Richard Teitelbaum. The idea is to play so carefully (quietly) that the audience can’t tell what is the music and what is the environment.

States of the Arts

The following questions relate to our States of the Arts column, for which each article includes four artworks that share an association with a single nation or territory.

Which Nigerian songs would you recommend?
‘Feso Jaiye’ by The Sahara All Stars of Jos. Deeply polyrhythmic, it takes a moment to get acclimated, but is rewarding, rich, and relaxing once you do.

‘Onye Mmanya’ by The Funkees. A sweaty funk romp. It really steps on the gas about halfway through. The shouted ‘Hey!’ at 5:30 is among the best in music.

The art of discovery

The following questions relate to Silent Frame’s aim to celebrate the art of discovery.

What is your greatest artistic discovery?
Brief visits with failure are important, because you return armed with knowledge and perspective.

What question would you like to ask other Silent Frame interviewees?
Whose appraisal of an artwork is more valid – the artist’s or the audience’s?

More to discover

Shy Layers: Visit JD Walsh’s website and view his visual art here, his Bandcamp page here, and his Soundcloud page here. His Twitter handle is @shylayers.

Today’s recommendations: Nostalgia (short film), The Possible Fog of Heaven (short film), Boomerang (short film), ‘A Prayer’s Chance’ (article), ‘Feso Jaiye’ (song), ‘Onye Mmanya’ (song).

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