Friday, 31 August 2012

if you're gonna sculpt, sculpt like Tony

Recently I saw Tony Cragg’s latest work along ‘Exhibition Road’, it was a series of remarkable bronze sculptures that had materialised along the road in South Kensington amongst the grandiosity of the surrounding Natural History and Victoria & Albert Museums.
"I call bronze the archaic plastic, when you melt bronze it’s more liquid than water. So you can cast very fine, complex forms from it. People knew this 6,000 years ago. Bronze has never lost its relevance."
They looked so interesting against the backdrop of those buildings and it was interesting to see what happens when art is taken out of the gallery space; the comparison of them being used at seats and ashtrays, as well being appreciated and admired.    

'Versus' 2012

'Ferryman' 2001

'Luke' 2008

'Ellipitcal column' 2012

Tony Cragg began with a career in science but realising that his future lay in art, he went to The RCA Sculpture School which shared a back yard with the Natural History Museum and the Geological Museum. He was constantly in those places; particularly the geological museum (now part of the Natural History Museum), as it conveyed a profound sense of how Britain’s development has been determined by its material structure. “There were minerals, rocks and fossils from various parts of Britain. You could look at crystal forms and see exactly why they look the way they do, not just through their surfaces, but the atoms and molecules behind them.”

'Britain seen from the north'
a sideways map of Britain assembled from multicoloured plastic detritus, with a figure, representing Cragg, regarding the country from the top – a piece that was interpreted as a comment on the way the North was suffering under Thatcherism.

'New Configuration' 1985

'New Stones, Newton's Tones' 1978

While his earlier work was created from the basis of using found objects, and arranging them, he realised he couldn’t go on endlessly finding new materials, and “wanted to do more with the forms themselves.” The result was the gradual move towards more traditional materials.

It is the interplay between surface and substance, and the expectations we bring to them that informs these current works, which is what Cragg is doing in his current sculptures, shifting our sense of what things should look like so that what appear to be human profiles blur out of existence as you move around them, and mineral-like strata slide out of alignment or bulge in bronze like gelatinous sludge.

“We perceive the world through light reflected on surfaces. We develop a fantastic ability to read these surfaces and what lies behind them. And these surfaces are always the product of a function. There’s a reason things look the way they do – a value to everything. But if you shift these relationships just a bit, put another emphasis on them, new meanings come out of it.”

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