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form and proximity

Sculptural and spatial practice for me has always been more expansive than Kraussian quadrants. Simply; sculptural and spatial practice encompasses a wide range of philosophical and artistic interrogations that break down/emphasise/piece together how humans perceive and feel dimension and expressions of form* that can include, painting, drawing, photography etc.

British artist and painter Clare Woods is a great example of an artist working in a medium traditionally considered outside sculpture, but whose practice is formally sculptural. Woods uses paint as a means of expressing the three-dimensional value of form using techniques that emphasise the structure of an image (see below video).

I think it’s important to recognise that historical as well as contemporary sculptural and spatial practice is consistently an expression of form relative to human and human-scale concepts of space and time. As such, form is perceived and experienced at a human level as both a 2D as well as 3D phenomenon relative to distance/proximity. I can’t help but wonder why, at least in Australia, formal distinctions that individuate sculpture from drawing from printmaking from photography etc. continue to persist despite contemporary social shifts in understanding about dimension/space-time concurrently with acknowledgement of the advent of the Anthropocene.

NB. I consider that there is a distinction between the philosophical and artistic interrogation of the dimension and expression of form (sculpture and spatial practical) and the rendering/depiction of form to create the illusion of dimension (broadly printmaking, drawing and painting).

anonymous spectacle

Chair 1966 Formica 151 x 46 x 77 cm via  Saatchi Gallery.

Chair 1966 Formica 151 x 46 x 77 cm via Saatchi Gallery.

Richard Artschwager’s (1923-2013) sculptural practice, characterised by the use of Formica and timber veneer to create sharp-edged box structures, exude character. The materiality and subtle narrative of human gesture that comes with Formica (commonly used in kitchens) lends itself to the Artschwager’s cool and oblique commentary on the links between perception, the tactile and the personal. Colour fields and pattern dominate to produce dreamy, stylised sculptures that neither reject nor elevate their synthetic nature. A balance between what is and what could be, Artschwager punctuates space with anonymous spectacle.

Sitting somewhere between industrial design and sculpture, Chair (Formica, 1966), a swirling Walnut-veneer rectangular form exemplifies what I like most about Artschwager’s spatial philosophy; clean, rectangular shapes defined by organic pattern, harmonising two materials that define different aspects of form.

In 2012 The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles produced a great 1-hour film about Richard Artschwager and his work titled ‘Richard Artschwager: Shut Up and Look’ (Directed by Maryte Kavaliauskas; produced by Maryte Kavaliauskas and Morning Slayter) that gives great insight into Artschwager’s practice. Click here to find out more about this documentary.

art on disguise

Throughout my career, ‘truth to materials’ has been upheld as the truest, purest virtue in contemporary sculpture. Lately though, I’ve been questioning the validity of this architectural concept. Not because I disagree with the concept necessarily, but because of what it masks. If everything is presented as it is, are we ever really looking at the hidden and sometimes intentionally obscured manufacturing process from which our modern world originates? Can we live in an environmentally sustainable-focused world and continue to be ‘true to materials’? Can we trust what is presented to us as ‘true’?

It’s interesting to consider the validity of ‘truth to materials’ in terms of the oeuvre of Robin Page (notably Baumgeist, Tree Spirit), an oeuvre that turned the ‘truth’ of materials (conscious of the term ‘truth’ to be a social as opposed to actual reality) on itself. Mocking commercialism and art itself Page’s anarchisms (with roots in Fluxus) often function to reveal what is beyond a material or our expectations of it, what it does or should functions (in a human sense). Perhaps to reach a sustainable future we have to accept that there is no ‘truth’? That truth is a manifestation of expectation, and a human desire to make patterns and design determine universal formula? What if we don’t believe in truth?

Robin Page, Baumgeist (Tree Spirit), 1972.

Robin Page, Baumgeist (Tree Spirit), 1972.