"I experiment until I can find a way I can manipulate them [the source material] or take advantage of their iconography, without completely changing them. I like the fact that people can still recognize what the source material is."
Brian Jungen was born in 1970 on a family farm north of Fort St. John, British Columbia. His father was Swiss born and immigrated to British Columbia with his family when he was three years old. Jungen's mother was Indigenous, a member of the Dane-zaa Nation. Jungen recalls his mother's ability to adapt objects to new uses, something he now famously does within his artistic practice. He recalls "She was constantly trying to extend the life of things, packages, utensils. Once we had to use the back end of a pickup truck as an extension for our hog pen."
In 1988 he moved to Vancouver to attend the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. He graduated four years later with a Diploma of Visual Art. After which he moved to Montreal and New York City prior to returning to Vancouver.
In 1998 he took part in a self-directed residency at The Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff, Alberta. This residency would become the tipping point in his career. As it was there that he began to work on his now famous Prototypes for New Understanding (1998-2005); a series of sculptures he created by disassembling and reassembling Nike Air Jordan sneakers to resemble Northwest Coast Indigenous masks. He would go on to explore his interest in using sports paraphernalia creating sculptures out of catchers mitts, baseball bats, and basket ball jerseys. Jungen has stated that it is a deliberate choice to create works out of materials produced by the sports industry; an industry that appropriates Indigenous terminology, such as the team names The Chiefs, Indians, Redskins and Braves. However Jungen's work is not exclusively tied to his heritage. He has stated "My involvement with my family and traditions is personal - it's not where my art comes from."
His interest in architecture and in particular Buckminster Fuller is also evident in his practice with his creation of multiple shelters for humans, animals and birds. Overriding the majority of his work is Jungen's ability to disassemble and reassemble objects maintaining the integrity and meaning of his source material and yet creating new possibilities for meaning Shapeshifter (2000) / Transmutation (2000).
Brian Jungen was the winner of the inaugural Sobey Art Award in 2002 and the 2010 Gershon Iskowitz Prize.