Brancaster Chronicle No. 22: Anthony Smart Sculptures
HRS 7, steel, H.120cm.
19th July 2015, at the artist’s studio near King’s Lynn.
Those present: Anthony Smart, Anne Smart, Robin Greenwood, Sarah Greenwood, John Bunker, Alexandra Harley, Patrick Jones, Helga Joergens-Lendrum, David Lendrum, Mark Skilton, Hilde Skilton, Noela James, John Pollard.
HRS 8, steel, H.87cm.
Anthony Smart: These sculptures have all been made this year. They have developed across each other, always on the move.
Noela James: I can see there are subtle differences in each sculpture; there are different shapes within each one.
Anthony Smart: The shapes themselves do vary, what I would call the configuration vary where the metal is. It’s all on the move all of the time.
John Bunker: I missed last year here, this piece [pointing to Marshland 3 which is still in the same space] so I am reacting to what is here now, and the first thing that strikes me is how more “open” they seem to be. My immediate response is how “open” they are and inviting of the space the pieces are. This one here, No 8., to me this feels exciting and I am really taken with the way you are holding the space and yet there is nothing holding itself in. It’s inviting a serious desire for me to move around the sculpture.
Anthony Smart: Good.
John Bunker: Seems to me that the planes are constantly moving as you move, it seems to be one step ahead of me all the time. So different areas hold the space and others let the space go. You are allowed on a journey through the sculpture and out into the distance. When you are this side of the sculpture you are let straight back in to a different configuration. I find that extraordinary and very exciting.
Mark Skilton: I agree with what you are saying, mainly because of how the sculpture controls the space. I think all of these pieces are about the relationship between the material, what they are made of, and the space which they occupy, and how the space is affected by the material. This one is particularly strong. It is very clean in that, particularly this space and this lower space are being controlled by the material and it is important that in turn the material forms the space. John was saying that it invites you in and that it gives you the feeling of being drawn in. The other thing to say is that the working of the material with the space creates… well it does two things.The material affects the space, and also locally, and that produces smaller volumes which expand the feel of the sculpture. It’s a very paired down kind of configuration, to use Tony’s word. It is actually bigger in feel and bigger in content. That is why I think that this one is the best. The other ones that are more or less single lines are pretty good but there are differences in the way say No. 3.for example this one seems to have planes which interfere with the overall volume of the piece. It starts to create levels which tend to suggest other things.
HRS 3, steel, H.87cm.
Robin Greenwood: Are you talking about just horizontal planes?
Mark Skilton: Yes, that particular bit annoys me. In the other one, No.8, through the way it is built and made, even from a distance when you look at it, it looks whole and complete and confident it is really controlling the space around it. This one, No.3, is talking about other things, so you move up the levels, having a rest as you get to the next one. And this kind of work here, although it invites space in, it over-complicates the volume of the sculpture.
Hilde Skilton: Why do you have trouble with the planes Mark? I think that the planes add another dimension and do not allow these sculptures to become linear. It is apparent in a lot of the sculptures; some points I want to make generally about all of these pieces and it is to do with abstractness. These are so abstract, it’s to do with clarity. These pieces may seem random but they are not random at all, they all add up. And the other point maybe to do with the abstractness too, dare I say about the” leg “problem that Mark had last year, you are just not aware of it. The whole thing comes to the surface, to the slab.
Mark Skilton: You highlighted clarity and that is what I am liking about this [No.8], it is very clear. What I mean, it is very clear. I think the horizontal plane I am picking up on No. 3 distracts from the clarity. You say they add another dimension and I can see why you would think that, but it is a dimension that has nothing to do with the real content. This is what is so difficult to understand, both as a practitioner and an observer, just what the clarity of the piece should be, and that detail just annoys me about that, I think its distracting from the clarity; whereas No. 8 does not have any of that, there is nothing here that I would criticize, and it has a richness and clarity to it which I think puts it above all of the others.
Hilde Skilton: Has anybody else picked up on these planes ?
Alexandra Harley: I have to say, no, I haven’t.
Robin Greenwood: I find that there are little and quite large planes running through but I haven’t got beyond that; I do find them a distracting.
Hilde Skilton: Do you ?
Alexandra Harley: Well I am seeing something different to you.
Robin Greenwood: [Pointing to No 8 ] Well I like this sculpture very much. I like this top part, I think that is fantastic, it is the most spatial extension in all of the works. I’m discouraged though by all this stuff that kind of lines up here. So I get a sense of the division of the space rather than coming through.
Alexandra Harley: I was not bothered by that because I felt like…
Robin Greenwood: Doesn’t it bother you if you stand over there?
Alexandra Harley: No it doesn’t, because I felt it takes the space in different ways. It is very exciting. I didn’t delineate in that way.
Anthony Smart: Can I say: where are these planes?
Robin Greenwood: I said one plane… [points]
Alexandra Harley: That section across there? You can find planar elements all over.
Robin Greenwood: No… and you wouldn’t want to.
Alexandra Harley: No, that’s my point.
Anthony Smart: Before you get carried away, I think that passage from there is making total sense in relation to what this extension is, through there, this passage is in anticipation and resistance of this going on up here.
Alexandra Harley: And I love this here, this modulates all of these aspects up through here and I do not have a problem with that plane because of the way that these have been so distinctively placed, because of the way they are, that plane there, and I am using your words, makes sense of all of the space around it and I think that is a really strong aspect. I do not see it as a negative feature.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: Also, what I found, we have here larger elements and they are vertical and diagonal, which also disturb the flow and slow down the flow, then here they become smaller and the higher the sculpture moves up into space, the lighter the elements become. So you are preparing the viewer for what is coming in the sculpture and you are also creating a sense of suspense, what is happening as you go higher and higher and here is a little resting point. Then the sculpture moves diagonally to my right then up and down again. Then to the left and diagonally. You are then invited through this little curve around and back into the sculpture. I think that is really, really beautifully done. Everything is perfect here and should be as it is. It is a very light sculpture which just lifts, it almost defies gravity. Swinging with a beautiful curve along the ground, swings from the two directions back up to the top, it is so light. It is a beautiful sculpture.
David Lendrum: I agree with all of that Helga.
Hilde Skilton: Can we go back to this thing about planes? I have not perceived them before. I am surprised, Mark, that you saw them. Take that in No.3, the part that Mark says irritates him. I think that is a lovely detail. I love the way that flamboyant shape is combined with the other shape to give a different speed here in the movement. It is not my favourite sculpture, I’m just picking up something Mark said. Why did it irritate you Mark?
Mark Skilton: Because that suggests something… so you have got them in more than one place. Whereas you don’t get that in No 8.
Alexandra Harley: But isn’t that a simplistic way of saying if that had been a diagonal it would have worked.
Mark Skilton: It seems like nit-picking, but I think it is an important point. So what Tony has achieved in that one is substantially beyond what I am capable of. It is not just by chance that those pieces were placed in the way that they are. He has managed to free himself of other suggestions and he has left you with the pure nature of space material from part to part.
Hilde Skilton: So, purity then?
Mark Skilton: Yes. You do not need the distraction of horizontality or level bits, it’s the suggestion of other things.
HRS 9, steel, H.92cm.
Hilde Skilton: Can we go and talk of No. 9? Coming to this, there is no issue of legs. This is something I feel Tony has overcome. The whole weight all these elements that come in and take the weight; it just becomes a whole thing that is backed up by the pieces that come up and down, reinforcing the whole piece in its feelings.
Mark Skilton: So what you are saying is that the elements in the sculpture produce a sense of wholeness and they reinforce each other. I agree. But I think the elements sort of get in each others way. On the one hand they build interesting, different configurations and build different volumes with them, and then I thought: but what is the point?
David Lendrum: Because they give a higher level of visual interest.
Mark Skilton: Yes, but we are not just after visual interest.
Hilde Skilton: But Mark, they build a feeling of how the whole thing is.
Mark Skilton: Sure, but even the feeling of the whole thing is not that important.
Anne Smart: So is the main thing clarity?
Mark Skilton: Yes, it is a clarity and it is a purity and purpose. The thing that’s made. The thing that is on its own. If I am standing here looking at that sculpture, I look at that thing and I don’t think it has anything to do with that one [pointing to different parts of the same sculpture]. Sure, it has to do with the feeling, but the actual reality, the sculpturalness of it has to be free from all of the other distractions.
Robin Greenwood: Do you mean it has to go down to a singular line, then?
Mark Skilton: As far as I am concerned, at the moment, I think so.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: Well, that means you are expecting a completely different sculpture.
John Bunker: I think it has got something to do with movement and the way as a viewer you are moving around. Because of the movement, I stop; say one element is moving up, or there is a splaying out with two competing rising elements, when you are on the move with the sculpture that becomes less of an issue with me. The two splaying elements are interacting as you are moving around.
Mark Skilton: So does that make it clearer in your mind ?
John Bunker: I don’t know whether that’s to do with it. There is something in the sculpture that is propelling and pushing me around and I am constantly engaged spatially; that’s the exciting experience that I want.
Anne Smart: I think that is the critical thing. It is not like a roundabout. You are encouraged and captivated, you want to move around in all directions, and get lots of different experiences, not just one.
Hilde Skilton: Can you explain more?
Anne Smart: The shapes and the forms are just the beginning of the whole experience. Its constant, the moving in and around.
Anthony Smart: The reason why walking around them is driven by the piece. John is on it, he is so right.
Hilde Skilton: What if you can’t walk around?
Anthony Smart: You are able to instinctively to think three dimensionally. There are other ways of doing it.
John Pollard: There is something interesting about this. While you are walking around you are making the sculptures move. Is that movement coming to you or the sculpture? But if it is working when you are still, well, that is kind of interesting.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: Regarding the competing elements, they have a dialogue with each other and respond to each other. My observation is that many elements at the end of pieces are curved and invite you to go around. By going around you see different areas, some of them open, and it adds to it and makes it very lively with variety and complexity. My question is: do you look at these pieces from above during their making?
Anthony Smart: Because these sculptures are this size and not that of “Westerton 1 “ which is in the other yard, you are looking down, and your are aware of its actual three-dimensionality. It is greater at this scale than it is at the bigger scale. Also you can pick it up and move it and put it at different heights. If we can go back to Mark’s point of having more than one “riser”… more than one upwardly-moving element; but what I have not heard you attempt to do is relate them back to the ground. We have heard a lot about the ground and there is a sensitivity to the way the pieces sit on the floor. The commonality of the upward steelwork is the moving steel below. What they are doing and becoming to each other crossways which you Mark seem to distrust.
Mark Skilton: Yes.
Anthony Smart: Or its through the steel, in relation to the steel, or you have actual contact and also connecting with the content compressing and expanding as you move around, pulling in and out, twisting and turning and creating three-dimensionality.
Mark Skilton: Yes, there is lots of that. With No. 8 there is a synthesis, a distillation in all of these things you are talking about, and has achieved clarity. Whereas with these, you have everything you are talking about with lots of three-dimensionality, but they are not distributed about the whole thing so they are vey difficult to look at. Why is the space in No 8 so easy and so strong, and yet this one is difficult.
Anthony Smart: We are looking at two approaches to making sculpture. First the single upright and of course that did not start life like that, it went the way it went, and similarly with this piece, in fact all of them. I want to prize out of you why you have a problem with two developments to uprights.
HRS 4, steel, H.97cm.
Mark Skilton: Right, the two developments relate to each other visually in a myriad of ways which does not seem to amount to anything more than, as you said yesterday, the sum of the two elements.
Hilde Skilton: But what about the whole feeling?
Mark Skilton: I was getting to that bit, but it is just a feeling…
Hilde Skilton: So what, that’s so big.
Mark Skilton: My point about No. 8 is that you don’t have that feeling. You do not have that visual distraction, and yet you have managed to achieve something that has far more visual content in a single riser.
Robin Greenwood: Is that because the space is different in the two pieces .
Mark Skilton: In No. 8 the space is different and more successful.
Alexandra Harley: The thing about the single riser is that it is bifurcated, engaged through the space. It is bringing space in. This one – and it is not a criticism – has more delineation to its spaces, in as much as you have two elements coming up. it is more than an encapsulation-sense than that bifurcation… and I am not going to be held to that, because I think there are more elements to this sculpture. I am just trying to clarify my own mind.
Mark Skilton: So are you saying this is like a three-legged pot.
Alexandra Harley: I am absolutely not saying this. I think that is really unfair.
Robin Greenwood: There is a sense that Mark is saying that the space between the two things is a fixed space.
Anthony Smart: That’s it, bingo, the space is fluid, got it. Robin is seeing ,with Mark, that as soon as you stand still there is something frozen in time, something delineated. The sculpture is about fluidity. It is obviously possible, if you put up steel, you can read it in two ways, these are the two ways. The things are constantly interchanging. So the space cannot be delineated.
David Lendrum: I like them all, and can’t see what you are all on about; this is a different experience. The way you have chosen the elements is fantastic. I enjoy the experience of walking around it. It stands out there, it is natural, terrific. They have a lovely lightness, with springy rhythm.
Anthony Smart: Thanks for that Dave, but we must return to sorting out this split between the sculptors. This is going to be about whether you can have one thing or two things.
Mark Skilton: I should think in theory you can have as many things as you like as long as their relationship builds up to something that is bigger and that you do not just read them individually. I think that this one, No. 8, is on a higher level.
John Pollard: If there are two ways of doing things, if you have more than one upward riser, is that in a sense more ambitious than just one?
Mark Skilton: Absolutely!
Anthony Smart: So you should now tell us why this one does not work.
Mark Skilton: I want to compare the two sculptures.
Anthony Smart: No. That is that one, and that is that.
Mark Skilton: Well, it does work, I just think that one is on a different level. I looked at these last night and got a load of great things from them. But after looking at No. 8 I came back to these, and just thought they were laboring a point. They achieve what they achieve, but are not as ambitious as No. 8. So looking at the two elements, they are very three-dimensional, that’s the whole point. The two risers hold the space in a physical way, if you put one in front of the other in the space, and then as you move all that changes, and that change is not necessarily consistent. The space is not observed three-dimensionally. It’s a different space.
Anthony Smart: Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?
Mark Skilton: A disadvantage. What you have got is a sense of something happening, so you move around it and its gone. You’ve got something different. You rebuild it, move, and its gone again.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: I find that very exciting, an advantage. That makes the sculpture complex.
Anthony Smart: The steel doesn’t change, what changes is the space; and so I say: what is wrong with that?
Robin Greenwood: You will have to explain that to me.
Anthony Smart: If this is, and you just said it was, three dimensional, you have access to its logic wherever you are, to reveal the same logic of construction, just to see different aspects of it.
Mark Skilton: But what if that logic is so complex that as you move it changes each time you look at it and in your mind it becomes impossible to re-build it as a whole thing, three-dimensionally?
Anthony Smart: That is absolutely brilliant. I am saying that this is the same piece of steel, but the space as you move is always changing. So the steel moves but it is still the same.
David Lendrum: Yes! It is what it is.
Anthony Smart: So whatever it is doing…
David Lendrum: Yes. You se it there and then you see it there. Well, I think that is the difference between painting and sculpture.
Anthony Smart: But if you want to go beyond flat sculpture, there is going to be a price, and the price is something involving what you are talking about. So, to get my point across, once you have got to know this and this steel is known, it is in your head. You can understand the steel and what it is doing. It goes into your head. So anyway when you listen to a piece of music after lots of listening, your head starts to know things about it…
Hilde Skilton: Yes that is my point…
Anthony Smart: …and because of that knowing, the music can surprise you, things start jumping around, in and out, and without that ‘knowing’ and without those stepping stones to rely on, this is the known quantity, [the steel ] the space is the unknown, and its in that the sculpture becomes abstract. So we can not run away from this problem.
Mark Skilton: You certainly can’t.
Noela James: I am listening, and I can see an analogy. As you walk around there are different facets and that one, No. 8, gives a sense of wholeness. Although I like this No. 9 and think that it’s a great sculpture. As you walk round it, it does give a sense of ‘images’, that’s the analogy I can think of in painting..
Mark Skilton: You mentioned wholeness, I don’t think No. 8 is any more whole than this one No. 9. This No. 9 is perfectly whole. I think No. 8 has a clarity which this doesn’t have.
Robin Greenwood: So explain that a bit more. What is the difference?
Mark Skilton: Clarity is the distillation of the meaning of the sculpture. As you work you see things in a sculpture and you try to build things. You try to follow things through. You can only do as much as you are capable of understanding. I think that if you can then get rid of a lot of distractions, a lot of nice things that you really like, you end up with the essence of what you have achieved.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: There are two concepts of sculpture from one viewpoint. One: you can see the whole sculpture from one viewpoint; and two: when you can only understand the complexity of the sculpture by walking around it. So you could say that No. 8 could be understood more easily from one point although it is important that you do walk round it and see its complexity. By walking around, it lends itself more easily to being understood. But in No. 9 you can only fully understand its richness, complexity and the way it works both with and in space, and also the emotional complexity, if you walk around it and view it from different viewpoints. Before I asked you if you saw it mainly from the top, but also looking from underneath, because the sculpture is so complex you cannot take it in from one viewpoint.
Mark Skilton: I completely disagree.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: You see the openness, closeness, and the dense areas from one viewpoint…
Mark Skilton: You cannot say that about No. 8, you cannot see it from one viewpoint. You have to walk around it to appreciate the richness of meaning of the sculpture. I agree with your definition of differing types, but they are not the basis for separating these two. The fact that you are walking around the sculpture illustrates my point. Dare I say that is the problem. Is all of that relevant?
John Pollard: Well, is No. 9 more ambitious than No. 8 ?
Mark Skilton: Well, I think that No. 8 has the same level of complexity. but in a different way.
John Pollard: Yes, that’s an important point.
Patrick Jones: Its wonderful to hear sculptors talking about it all in this way. The thing that interests me about Tony’s sculptures this year and last year is the way they spring from the ground upwards. That is a fantastic quality and what I enjoy. This sculpture is not static. It has tremendous movement.
Anthony Smart: I would like to point out here that Mark is on his own and is having to restrict his vocabulary, he is feeling his way into these issues. Sculpture needs to figure this out, and we are on it, here!
Noela James: Mark, would you be able to say what it is that would make this sculpture better for you?
Mark Skilton: I would not presume to say anything at all about that. Tony’s work is far beyond any of my capabilities. I would not know how to go about doing that. I am perfectly happy to talk about what is great about this sculpture No. 9, including the “feeling” of the sculpture.
Robin Greenwood: What you have brought up is a fantastically interesting thing about sculpture.
HRS 1, steel, H.120cm.
Mark Skilton: This sculpture No. 1 gets hold of less space than the last No. 9. I love it. There is a lot of fabulous sculptural content in this piece, and ultimately the space in the other one, No.9, works better.
Anne Smart: If we thought about the steel and its relation to the space as Tony says, and the way the space moves, has anyone any thoughts about that?
Robin Greenwood: Do you agree with that?
Anne Smart: I am beginning to understand what it means.
Robin Greenwood: I am not sure that I am.
Hilde Skilton: I do, and talking about No 1, I am only talking about details here, and it almost becomes that character in my mind, because of being able to walk around it and its ability to inform all of the time. I would want to memorize what that character was. On the point of view that Tony was talking about these elements not actually changing, I guess what does change is how one will articulate with the next one. So I guess the way you move around, you get to see how they are articulated and the energy changes. These elements are so specific that the energy is clear, whether it is pausing or starting to stretch out.
Anne Smart: Do we all have a different idea of what these spaces are? Maybe some of us have a very fixed idea about what space is and this is very different to what we are used to.
Mark Skilton: Space per-se is nothing. It has no right to exist on its own. It is the stuff within space that gives it its meaning. That is why it is such an important issue for us, especially making three-dimensional sculpture. That space is as important as the material we are going to such lengths to weld together.
David Lendrum: If you ignore the definitions of space and sculpture, there is another important aspect. There are things about this piece that I really like. This point here, all the weight upon that point, that is vey daring. It is very tense and then all of this is supported by another point there. There is a very fine balance achieved here because it not only works physically, but visually as well. The springiness and lightness is contradicted by the actual weight of the steel. I like the way it is all contained within these elements, and the almost miraculous balance with these tension points. It is a fabulous achievement.
Patrick Jones: I like the way the eye can move through the sculpture.
Mark Skilton: Yes. I just wish the memory could as well! As Tony was saying, the steel is not changing. It is not moving around like some animal, but the more you move around it, you have to keep memorizing. It’s hard to do; in fact I don’t think that it is possible to hold all of that information.
Robin Greenwood: But if the steel was changing the space in a way that you could get hold of, would that help take you round the sculptur; if the space really was being controlled by the steel?
Mark Skilton: I think that it would. Yes.
Sarah Greenwood: You have to believe that, as you are walking around, that the element of steel can do that. You have to produce these different spaces so that it does not cease to exist as you move to another space here. You have to believe it is doing that.
Anthony Smart: Can you just hold that point please, Sarah, because I need you to tell me where that does not happen, because Robin just said “if the steel was controlling the space properly”…
Robin Greenwood: Ok, for me in this one, No. 1, the space round here is not… ermm… if you pull it up, there is not the sense of that space at the top relating to that space at the bottom with all of that round there [encircles arms around the centre section].
Anne Smart: Is that two big spaces? Are there no other spaces?
Robin Greenwood: [gesturing with hands and arms] Well, Tony asked me? Particularly the middle of this is not controlled…
David Lendrum: What would you do to it to make it a more controlled space?
Robin Greenwood: I’ve absolutely no idea. That’s his job. That would be too hypothetical.
Anne Smart: But you should explain why.
Robin Greenwood: Its very hard isn’t it. It’s hard to explain why, you either see it or you don’t.
Anne Smart: Is it because it is in the middle?
Robin Greenwood: Ok, what about this? Where does this space end? [gesticulating around the middle] Where is it? What is it? What’s this space? [gesture]
Hilde Skilton: It’s different to the other spaces.
Robin Greenwood: Is it this or is it that. [gesture]
Hilde Skilton: No, its just around it.
Alexandra Harley: This is what I was saying earlier on. It’s bifurcated space.
[All move back to view No. 8]
Mark Skilton: I agree with your description of how the space works in that, Robin.
Anthony Smart: How? I don’t.
Mark Skilton: Well, it is an example of how the space is working, because you feel it through. You feel the space of the whole sculpture, but it is manipulated by the sculpture. As Robin was trying to point out in that one, No. 3. .. the space is separated. By the sculpture.
Robin Greenwood: You mean the middle of it?
Hilde Skilton: Show us.
Mark Skilton: Well… In that the middle here shrinks. [No. 3] it does not matter how big it is, it shrinks down there and comes up there and there.
Anthony Smart: What’s wrong with that?
Mark Skilton: There is nothing wrong with that. But that one [pointing to No8] …
Noela James: This one, No. 3, feels more vertical…
Anthony Smart: I’m going to put it to both of you, and I did feel this last year, that you are trying to carve the space as though it were a piece of cheese.
Mark Skilton: I think that space is a real thing, so long as you have got something in it. But we have got a long way to go.
Robin Greenwood: So what do you think it is, Tony?
Anthony Smart: That it is a very fluid thing. It is constantly changing and is at the whim of the steel.
Robin Greenwood: Yes, but it is not “any” metal in “any” configuration.
Anthony Smart: I thought we had crossed that bridge a long time ago. What seems to be in question is not the steelwork but the space, that is why I say to you that, as with last year, you are talking about space as though it had been cut up with a knife.
Robin Greenwood: So you are saying that we should be criticizing the steel work if we are criticizing anything.
Anthony Smart: If you are pointing to something you have to point to the steelwork, because I thought that we had agreed earlier that the steelwork was to blame.
Robin Greenwood: So the steelwork makes the space, so it’s the space you are trying to “do”. You are not just trying to put pieces of steel together, are you ? You are trying to make something that is a coherent whole…
Anthony Smart: I don’t see what you are trying to sort out, I don’t see them as a list of items
Robin Greenwood: I don’t think we do.
Anthony Smart: I think you do a bit, and you are certainly talking that way at the moment.
Patrick Jones: Can I ask… this piece of space is controlling here… [pointing downwards]
Robin Greenwood: Why do you think that that is controlling that? Why does this do it and how does it do it ?
Patrick Jones: I am trying to see the space within the solid.
Anthony Smart: Where does that balloon end?
Patrick Jones: It ends about here. [gestures]
Robin Greenwood: That’s what I said.
John Bunker: Thinking about this one, No.1, I can see a definitive and slightly bland diagonal coming through, even though it has been broken up. We are talking about space, and I can see a straight line, [indicates] even though the metal is doing complex things here, I am still getting a very clear straight line. I don’t think that that is articulating space as interestingly as some of the other pieces. Maybe that is just a personal thing.
John Pollard: So perhaps if you could make that kind of steel simpler?
Robin Greenwood: Well, I think the points John is making are really good, and they refer to the ledges that Mark referred to in No. 3, they are distracting, shall we say…
John Bunker: I am still making a connection between this point here and this point here. The sculpture is doing something else. Maybe, this gets confusing for me, before I was talking about the sensation of moving around the sculpture, either way I am still picking up on the line. It isn’t changing enough.
Hilde Skilton: So why don’t you look into there.
Anthony Smart: John come over here and look at that through there. And now start moving around…
Anne Smart: I think you make a good point, John, and what you are highlighting is the difficulty of seeing fixed points and moving around sculpture.
Robin Greenwood: But that is what we are about, and it is unfair of Tony to say to John: don’t go and stand in one position.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: If you start here and walk around you see that there are masses, but from this angle where I am you see the lines off the bottom. So knowing that, I would say that the lines, if you can call them lines, are more linear elements in contrast to the volumes. That becomes, for me , the concept, because you can see them and as you move around you can see them again differently.
John Bunker: Still I am being dragged into the sculpture at this point here.
David Lendrum: If you look at it here, it is really thick from that point of view.
John Bunker: I have moved on from the line, which I still see, to this point here.
Hilde Skilton: That is fine, because look at the top, look at the bottom, its so exciting – and Robin, don’t shake your head. I don’t know where you guys are going, what are you doing. I feel that I am always aware of the energy; the feel, the springiness of it . So when you say gravity, its almost like old hat to you, how can that be? Gravity is always going to be something about sculpture. I know you are going off on space.
Anthony Smart: This thing about space I have said nothing about it. This has been brought to the table because some people have priorities. These sculptures may not have those same priorities.
John Bunker: Yes, I agree.
Anthony Smart: Space is being divided into houses with different emphasis. There is the emphasis of the sculptors and also of the painter,s all with different ideas of space. But concentrating on those of us who make sculpture, space is a big priority, and Robin is writing about it all of the time. My priority is the material. Whatever the space is it is because of the material.
Mark Skilton: [nodding]
Anthony Smart: I see you already are agreeing with that, Mark.
Hilde Skilton: Yes, I am too!
Mark Skilton: What we are responding to is just your work. We are looking at the content of your work.
Anthony Smart: That will be a first!
Mark Skilton: You are creating the thing that we are talking about.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: I see something very different as I go around. If you listen to a symphony, there are moments within it, and each one moment is completely different to another.
Robin Greenwood: I don’t think you can make an analogy about moving around in sculpture. Can you?
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: Moving around the sculpture and seeing different aspects, the sculpture changes and we were talking about different views. You move through a complex piece of music.
Robin Greenwood: What are your thoughts on that, Tony?
Anthony Smart: I am still thinking about this point here as a dramatic movement in the piece. I think, where is John’s apologies for over-reacting, lining things up.
John Bunker: No, that’s fine.
Anthony Smart: So standing over there, you can draw a line from there to there. You can draw a line from there to anywhere. You are not getting involved with what it means, what it is about, and what is happening. Does that point know about this point, for me that is the issue.
Anne Smart: Are there any more points?
David Lendrum: Yes. I would like to have a look at the one in the covered area, No.10.
HRS 10, steel, H.96cm.
Anthony Smart: On Friday night we were looking at No. 10 at a different height.
David Lendrum: Would you consider taking the pieces off the bases and having them free-standing?
Anthony Smart: Yes, we did try No. 9 on the floor on Friday night.
Hilde Skilton: John Pollard was just talking about that.
John Pollard: If you bring the sculpture to the floor, it changes for me and brings it together more.
Hilde Skilton: Tony, what was our conclusion when we put it on the floor?
Anthony Smart: Well I think in the case of No. 10 there is an advantage of having a view of the top.
Mark Skilton: Yes, I agree. It was slightly clearer being able to see on top of it rather than through it .
Hilde Skilton: We had it down on the floor and it did change dramatically, and suddenly I could feel what the piece was about. The opening out of the top and the whole bottom area becoming more, squeezing more in. It became more apparent on the floor.
[The table/base is removed from under No. 10.]
Mark Skilton: It is an interesting thing to do. I was surprised at how well it handled itself, how assertive it is. It is certainly handling the space within it. Of course it is harder to see the relationship to the ground. It doesn’t seem too bad.
Anthony Smart: I was particularly pleased to see something as illusionistic as this survive on the floor. Mark, do you feel the same double issue as the other No. 9?
Mark Skilton: Well, it does seem easier to look at and to understand.
Anthony Smart: So is this, for you , starting to win the battle.
Mark Skilton: [No answer]
Anthony Smart: So do you think this is a battle to be won?
Mark Skilton: Yes, it does and you are not going to do it by making these linear things.
Anthony Smart: So the nature of these ten sculptures is set up along these lines, isn’t it. I’ve given three, early single, two and in one case three… I think this has to be made to work. We can’t limit ourselves to a single entity. I would have liked this crit to have gone that way, instead of focusing on what to me is just some minor indiscretion, we do have a major sculptural issue here. These ten sculptures are aiming themselves through that problem and I am asking you if you thought this one did it any better.
Mark Skilton: I think this is different because its now in my space. I don’t have to enter its space it comes to me.
Robin Greenwood: Because its on the floor?
Mark Skilton: In the sense that I am relating to it less intellectually and more as an object.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: I am fascinated by this one. Its about overcoming weightlessness. This piece looks so light. It is about the forms and the volumes. I forget that it is made of steel. It comes together as a whole. It is no longer about the heaviness of steel. You are making the material do exactly what you want, a virtuoso in doing what you want the sculpture to do.
Anthony Smart: Thank you. How do you feel about its position on the floor?
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: Very good.
Hilde Skilton: But also the scale In these sculptures, it is very different to when you make a big sculpture. You could never make that transition [pointing to a section of the sculpture] for instance in a big sculpture. I don’t go with Helga on the weightlessness.
Anthony Smart: To have weightlessness you have to have a sense of weight.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: This sculpture pushes down, outwards and upwards.
Alexandra Harley: It is a lot to do with the profiles and the scale of the individual components. I think that by scaling back to smaller forms you have allowed the sculpture to dictate what it is about. They are not battling the material, you are articulating the material really brilliantly. Particularly some fantastic changes in direction and changes of plane, which articulate that space so that it holds the place that it is in so well.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: And there is a delicacy in that.
Alexandra Harley: Yes and a fragility… which absolutely should not be there. I think that is stunning.
Helga Joergens-Lendrum: It is not just the volumes, the spaces around and between the elements. For me it flicks between a volume and a negative space thus shaping and defining the inner and outer space.
Sarah Greenwood: Going back to the two-pronged issue, in this sculpture they brace against each other here, so that you do not have an obvious pivot point, in that there are two separate elements that are related by this thing there. That is an exciting pivot point.
Anthony Smart: Yes, it is anticipating all the way through. The origin of the two risers could be located there or there. Is its origin there or there? But I am interested to hear what Mark thinks of that.
Noela James: I like these twists here.
Hilde Skilton: What is the feeling of the steel at the bottom of the piece? It is not splaying out like the top, it is actually doing the opposite its coming this way
Anthony Smart: It’s a concertina.
Hilde Skilton: It’s contracting , yes…
Anthony Smart: Curiously, in this sculpture that is the last thing that I did and I think it is really good…
Hilde Skilton: Mark, do you want to say anything more about No10 and the big issue ?
Mark Skilton: Well, it would go on a bit. I would want to talk about the scale of this, and all of these pieces, but that is another issue and something else we should talk about…
HRS 2, steel, H.103cm.
A top sprinter spends 60% of their time in the air and 40% touching the ground, whereas for a club sprinter the reverse is true. All that effort, training and power gives them a greater leverage and economy.
The pieces of steel here are all graspable and in fact I can imagine a hand being useful to suggest and test out an attitude and position. Each piece offers unforeseen spatial opportunities and poses problems through its relational dialogues with subsequent or previous pieces. The work is made ‘on the move’ and makes the viewer move as a result; compels engagement and invites the interrogation of the unfolding spaces. When the space works, the steel becomes emphatically neutral ! Neutrality is/has often been sort through processes that deny the seemingly wilful lest it seem too staged or even academic. These works do the opposite: they are so wilful and specific yet never once look posed or even conform to a ‘game plan’ . Their openness is not just a visual quality, it’s endemic to the mindset of the approach.