EVERY few years, London’s Hayward Gallery issues an open call for an artist to put together a show. The exhibition comes to Scotland for the first time when multi-media artist and academic John Walter’s show Shonky: The Aesthetics of Awkwardness, opens at the Dundee Contemporary Arts on March 10.

Featuring a range of work from artists and architects such as Arakawa and Gins, Justin Favela, Cosima von Bonin, Niki de Saint Phalle; Benedict Drew, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Plastique Fantastique, Walter himself and more, it draws together work not previously exhibited together, or hardly exhibited at all.

“It’s partly about things that are out of fashion,” says Walter, who beat off about 150 other applicants. “Or maybe queer things, or feminist things, like the work of Niki de Saint Phalle, who isn’t very well collected in the UK, or Friedensreich Hundertwasser – there are just a couple of his prints in the V&A, and he was so prolific. Why is it that we in the UK don’t like this sort of work or at least, don’t show it?”

A dictionary definition of “shonky” may list “underhand” and “unreliable” as synonyms. Walter would likely add “ingenuous”, “provocative” and “fun”.

“It’s about something which just does the job it needs to but maybe that is not what it’s for,” he says. “Say you prop a door open with newspaper. That’s a very elegant solution, but it’s not what the newspaper is for. It’s a shonky solution.

“I’ve always used the word to describe objects that do something in a really funny, clever and inventive way. Maybe it’s an interesting way to look at artworks which at first sight may look a bit clumsy or clunky but are emotionally impactful because they are so odd-looking.”

Awkwardness can imply feelings of discomfort or confusion; a dissonance where accepted meanings can become slippery and tricky. Just as Walter aims to show how such ideas can be useful in exploring issues such as gender, identity, beauty and the body, a “shonky aesthetic”, he says, can also be a challenge to recent visual culture.

“There’s been a lot of slick art, art by people like Jeff Koons with lavish production values, whereas it’s sometimes important to have a tear or a rip,” Walter says. “To use paper instead of something glossy. It’s about using materials that are available to everybody, so there is something democratic about it. There’s an emphasis that art is for everybody, it’s not complicated.

“We all listen to music, we can all enter into that abstraction straight away, and we can also do that with visual things. Maybe this show intervenes in a fashion of esoteric art that hasn’t felt accessible. I don’t see any problem with populism. It’s not crass or stupid, it means we are all joining in the same conversation somehow.”

When the show premiered at Belfast’s MAC in October, visitor numbers doubled and the response on social media was “incredible”.

Waters hopes the exhibition at the DCA – which also features a selection of “shonky” films , an art school for teenagers and preview night events featuring an artist talk, live performance by artists Plastique Fantastique and Walter’s performative installation The Shonky Bar – will also inspire similar interest. “I’ve often used hospitality as a way of engaging audiences in my work,” he says. “I want people to be encouraged to ask questions about the art. It shouldn’t be intimidating. People should be allowed to ask artists, ‘So, what the f*** is this?’ And I should be able to tell you.”

Meet the curator: March 9, 6.30pm, free, ticketed. Preview: March 9, 7pm, free, drop-in.

March 10 to May 27, Dundee Contemporary Arts, 10am to 6pm and 10am to 8pm Thursdays. Tel: 01382 432444. www.dca.org.uk www.johnwalter.net