Brancaster Chronicle No. 46: Robin Greenwood Sculptures
“Grand Rubica”, 2017, steel, wood [view 1]
3rd June 2017, London.
Taking part: Anne Smart, Anthony Smart, John Pollard, Emyr Williams, Richard Ward, Alexandra Harley, Robin Greenwood, Sarah Greenwood, Charley Greenwood, Hilde Skilton, Mark Skilton, Noela James, Matt Dennis.
“Grand Rubica”, 2017, steel, wood [view 2]
“Rubica-Ornans”, 2017, steel, wood [view 1]
“Rubica-Ornans”, 2017, steel, wood [view 2]
“Litchitomitchi”, 2017, steel, wood [view 1]
“Litchitomitchi”, 2017, steel, wood [view 2]
“Yellow Rattle”, 2017, steel, wood [view 1]
“Yellow Rattle”, 2017, steel, wood [view 2]
“UPressure”, 2017, steel, wood [view 1]
“UPressure”, 2017, steel, wood [view 2]
“Agonia Rose”, 2017, steel, wood [view 1]
“Agonia Rose”, 2017, steel, wood [view 2]
Here’s a terrific, short poem by the great American poet John Peck—from his book M and Other Poems. Are the words “physical” or “visual”? Can’t say. I do think it’s kind of “fun” to think about the wood in Robin’s sculptures as coursing through the steel the way the young birch might run the rapids in John’s poem. Robin might not go along with me. But maybe we can all agree John’s poem is very “abstract.”
At the rapids father and boy pitch in a young birch
laid out by winter.
It is the March of mud roads and triggered hearts.
That boy leaps as the limber corpse
hurtles a chute, his father chuckles.
If they really knew what history is,
even though they’re in it up to their necks,
they’d feel it, the tug, the cold tilt. They’d stand, shiver.
But how much smarter is that? And how am I better?
It is that log I’ve got to be,
shot straight, unstuck from the banks,
sluicing my wood-lice through the white gates,
To say what I am trying to say about Robin’s sculpture I need to first remember Tim Scott’s “Bridge of Echoes 1”.
If ‘ feeling ‘is the big thing in Art and Sculpture need not be shy about it’s capabilities, the ‘feeling’ needs to come to you through the material and the space transcending all known structures and forces,hence an invention. For material and space to be both joined and separate, fluid and paused and moving again, for the material to be physically aware of itself and as a vehicle of a unified sense of purpose.kFor the space to give the material the room,the freedom to twist and turn throughout three dimensions and about itself to be all knowing of what is coming and going around it.
A sense of this and much else I felt I saw in “Bridge of Echoes 1”
Why I like these pieces of Robins is I can ‘feel’ what is in the best of the best of them. You can’t describe ‘feeling’ only acknowledge when it is there and “felt’. I would urge anyone to go and see this show.
Yes. And thank you.
The “visual or physical” thing is surely a false dichotomy when stated too bluntly. The physicality that sculpture cannot do without has to be perceived in a “visual” way, has to be “felt” by looking, or else it is literal or metaphorical. What is visual and what is physical (and indeed, what is spatial) have to be bound inseparably together in three-dimensions. When they are divorced or unbalanced is when the problems start. Been there, done that.
I think there may be a perfectly welcome difference of emphasis between sculptors concerning a “modelling or constructing” way of working/thinking. The difference lies with the repression of diversity in the parts from which the work is made and an emphasis on physical interaction within and between the material itself, one piece to the next – Tim’s “Bridge” sculptures being a good example; as opposed to a more differentiated array of parts through which the physicality and spatiality operate more broadly, which is how my work seems to me to operate best. This is to over-emphasise the difference and underplay the cross-over between these ways of working, especially when the work of either persuasion reaches a state of wholeness.
(By the way, rightly or wrongly, I did not interpret Tony’s comment as suggesting a similarity between my work and Tim’s “Bridges”, only an affinity of “felt-ness”; and so that is not my reason for pointing out what I think are real differences.)
Actually, that is a very interesting point: the”differentiated array of parts” as compared to “physical inter-reaction between….one piece and the next”….
In the “Bridge o Echos’ pieces (and others) the paper (card) I used had no substance or body, so I began folding it over and over in order to give it some physicality. The folding process automatically ended up with the small ‘pieces’ of material that I used for construction.
With the plywood (that you have not seen), the material itself has considerable ‘body’and substance, and, importantly, reads also from the edge creating a strong linear element. As a result I found I had to treat the construction quite differently, cutting out rather than folding, and making parts that had to be decided upon in their format.
The danger is, of course, making ‘shaping’ decisions which do not have a structural, directional, physical or spatial foundation, or indeed ‘ inter-reaction between the parts’.
I should have added that even with the ‘cur out’ parts it is imperative that they too read as ‘part on part’ if they are to have a real efffect of plastic movement and interplay with spaces and “knowing what is coming and going”.
For anyone who is interested, I have posted on Twitter amendments to three of the later sculptures, and one new one that is related: https://twitter.com/RobinGreenwood1
PRESSURE as Tony so rightly put it
Pressure needs release. Expansiveness, even!
As Tony says: “For material and space to be both joined and separate, fluid and paused and moving again”
Balance in all things, give and take, variety and change…
The interesting question is where and how the pressure and release is felt, and whether it somehow encompasses the whole sculpture? Even if it is felt locally, it can spread throughout. I think it can work the other way too, that a sense of purpose to the whole can infuse the parts with meaning.
Agreed. I would say that what we are now talking about is the sculpture’s structure. Only through a considered structure can the ‘spreading’ taker place.- parts creating a whole; and of course the question is: what sort of whole.?
Again, I should have added that structure is initially dictated by material: steel, wood, paper etc demanding their particular and respective considerations.
I’m glad you put that “initially” in there Tim!
Perhaps the structure [ if there is one ] is in accord with some imaginative three dimensionality? Perhaps the realisation of that three dimensionality could be termed structure? But why wouldn’t the term three dimensionality end up being totally inclusive of that structure and movement and material and pressure and space and time etc. etc.
How amazing it would be if a new plastic and spatial three dimensionality ,which sculpture has only recently sought to achieve, were to achieve this aim by consuming for itself all the things that so far have been thought of as separate entities.
And of course as we have known for ages it has to be Abstract.
Absolutely. Though for some reason I didn’t think you rated three-dimensionality as important. Something you said in the past. But I agree – if you can achieve this real, new, amazing kind of three-dimensionality that we now realise is a possibility – make that a probability or even a certainty -, then everything else is encompassed. But… in some way you don’t achieve the three-dimensionality unless you are minded to take care of all the other things, all at once.
Well yes, of course, ‘initially’; then the needs and requirements of the sculpture HAVE to take over. If not, you are in trouble. However, in sculpture, you cannot escape the material, only dominate it to your will.and what is possible.
Re the above: What exactly is your definition of ‘three dimensionality’ ? Is it that an integral sculpture whole, made up of integral sculpture parts has to convey itself with equal force (to the viewer) from any possible (millions) viewpoint ? If so, I think that several problems could be raised.
Firstly, it is possible that one might not require (for sculptural reasons) equal emphasis of visual force at all points of the compass. Changes of direction, mood, emphasis, and indeed ‘pressure’, could gainsay that for purely sculptural reasons and dictate otherwise.
I would have thought that achieving ‘imaginative three dimensionality, is a non seqitur; three dimensionality must surely come from a physical source, from stuff, not from the mind.if it is to be sculpture and not some sort of illustration. Three dimensionality should be the RESULT of “structure and movement and material and pressure”; you cannot inject it into them.
Ir occurs to me that equality of force all round may well end up with a metaphorical ‘sphere? (Perhaps that is why the universe is composed of spheres ? )
I don’t think we have the full measure of this new three-dimensionality yet; and Tony will have his own ideas. It would be interesting to unpack the “imaginative three-dimensionality” thing.
But for me, it is not “equal emphasis of visual force at all points of the compass”, but more access from all points to most or all of the content of the work – a kind of transparency (not literal) – so that everything in the sculpture can be seen in itself to be three-dimensional in the way it contributes to the bigger scheme of things… so everything has space to operate and do what it wants/needs to do.
“More” three-dimensional means in one sense more availability to the eye of three-dimensionality all over the sculpture, rather than a spherical roundedness.
I use the word ‘ imagination ‘ because it and the working of material when harnessed to an aim or aims [sense of purpose ] might lead to ‘ invention’ and I think my suggestion accepts that,as well as there being no rules, guarantees or definitions.
I do not have a definition of three dimensionality but I do have a new batch of work.
In a world of experimentation it is not always possible to grasp what is happening hence the Brancaster Chronicles. Maybe there others can see, draw attention to ‘inventions’ or just unfamiliarities point them out discuss them maybe even acknowledge their potential whilst resisting the temptation to come to ‘conclusions’. I agree with you the idea of equal emphasis would be ridiculous and its unfortunate you thought I would want it and of course ‘ working ‘ the material is pivotal to everything else. And of course its no good just sitting thinking. Nor would be without an aim. Non seqitur ?……well the only facts we know are derived from the past and relate to figuration,two dimensionality, objects etc etc.
I said three dimensionality could end up ” being the structure ” I also said it could be “in accord with some imaginative three dimensionality”.Robin’s last sentence reminds me of the phrase ‘all the balls in the air at once ‘ which has as a notion been ‘in the air ‘ itself for a very long time.My punt here is that “all the balls ” be all of those aspects of Abstract sculpture be taken together and there might follow a more free, more plastic ,more everything three dimensionality.Its the old horse and cart thing , which comes first? I am suggesting that starting with three dimensionality could be old thinking.
Robin, I like your three diimensionality definition: : “everything…can be seen…in the way it contributes….etc.”
Tony: Of course we need all the imagination in the world to get anywhere. Maybe I misunderstood you to suggest that we could have it without the actual stuff of the sculpture, and just suggest things.
Which actually raises another interesting point which is that the space we deal with in sculpture, and that is created by the material and, hopefully, is at one with it in sculptural expression, is actually ‘suggested’. It is only ‘there’ in what you see, and what you see is the result of the sculpture.
Tim ….Re what we see in the sculpture…..Absolutely agree.
Robin..Re the unpacking of imaginative three dimensionality….we are doing it already in our own work and have been for some time but if there is anything to be said lets do it !
Incidentally, Robin, since these comments are ostensibly initiated by your work, do you have anything to remark on concerning the ‘suspension’, particularly (for me) in the case of ‘Yellow Rattle’, of the pieces in the air ? What did you think you gained, lost, changed from the norm, etc.Since it is such a feature of the work, it deserves some analysis
I don’t, if you will pardon the pun, want to get at all hung up about the hanging thing. I will say this – it has been incredibly liberating to think differently about structure, by which I mean, to think about sculptural, not literal, structure. I think this is the best work I have come up with to date, so I’m keeping an open mind about it. I don’t want the hanging to become a “thing”, but if it works, it works. And it certainly seemed to work in one or two of these pieces, where the underside of the sculpture became more fully three-dimensional and available to sight as it was liberated from the floor. It also, surprisingly, seemed to increase both the physicality and spatiality of the work. At least one of these sculptures was made wholly on the ground before the idea of lifting it arrived, and every aspect of the work seem to be increased in potency by the lifting up.
Interesting to me that in the talk there was quite a lot of discussion about whether or not the hanging manifested itself in the sculptures as structure. I had a much more neutral take on it during the making of the work, and experimented with a few different ways of doing it. In “UPressure”, Tony thought the work could be described by the physicality of its hanging structure in a way that would be analogous to how a floor-based work stood on the ground, with forces transferring through the hook, down and round the “ring” of the work. I do not think this is how it works for me, because I don’t think that is the sculptural structure. That may be in part down to my take on the visual/physical thing, and also my slightly different attitude to spatiality – I do think of space being like another material in the work, so in this series I like to think I have three materials of differing densities – steel, wood, and air. This may be a conceit on my part, yet it may also be very important.
Anyway, to answer your question straight, I think in this instance a lot was gained and nothing lost. That said, I’m working back on the floor at the moment, trying to think if I can transfer the lessons learnt about a new sense of three-dimensionality to a ground-based sculpture. One of those lessons is that of completely abandoning an overall fixed configuration, and having the ability (technically and sculpturally) to turn things over/sideways/whatever-which-way, and to change/remove/swap over everything and anything in the quest for a complex but coherent three-dimensionality. That ability is in part dependent upon a complete faith in the inbuilt three-dimensionality of the micro-content of the work, right from an early stage. By this I mean making stuff happen that can act in all sorts of different sculptural contexts, as it and everything around it gets shunted about.
I am all in favour of trying anything out; in art as in anything alse experiment can lead to big surprises.
Your quotes of Tony’s comments seem to match exactly the ones I made in my email to you, and I agrree with him.that a ‘gravitational ‘alternative to ‘ground’ seems desirable.
I think your comment about ‘seeing the underside’ of a piece pinpoints one of the totally overlooked aspects of sculptural compositions, and it may well be that your experiments can reveal things we had overlooked..
The only thing I can say right now is that gravity is an extremely powerful force and will take some confronting.
Indeed, but I don’t think the hanging changes much in that respect. In UPressure, the wood elements seem to work their way upwards through the steelwork and the whole piece derives from this a kind of uplift – this doesn’t come across much in the photos – which in some way is akin to the idea of a floor-bound sculpture working against gravity, lifting upwards (worth mentioning that a section of the steelwork pulls downwards too, against that uplift). And so, just as in the case of a floor piece you would not want an obviousness to that resistance to gravity (like big feet and legs etc.) so, in my opinion, the best of these works have a very strong but more subtle take on gravity sensed but resisted.
So the hanging seems to have liberated some new aspect to the three-dimensionality without, I hope, compromising other values in the work. That’s my current take on it.
I’d like to expand a bit on this: “…making stuff happen that can act in all sorts of different sculptural contexts, as it and everything around it gets shunted about…” because I think it is key to what I am trying to do, and key to my own personal way of working and sense of what a new kind of three-dimensionality can be. It is about making stuff (parts of the sculpture, for want of a better way of explaining) that is undeterministic about its place and function in space and that can be moved or rotated about without nullifying its inbuilt sculptural (abstract) content, and in fact can be rediscovered to be doing some inadvertent but exciting activity when the context changes. The best way I can describe that is to suggest that this moving and changing of the whole work does not destroy the meaning of the parts, but only serves to spontaneously uncover some unexpected aspect of their three-dimensionality.
I’d better say at this point that all of those considerations still do not guarantee an end result. Nevertheless, this way of working, and its conflict (both in my head and in Brancaster) with a more deterministic approach to structure in sculpture, is something I believe in as a way forward, even though it has led to all sorts of problems in my work over the past few years (not to mention a number of arguments with Alan on Abcrit). It seems it is now resolving itself in some sustainable sculptures – by which I mean works that will continue to unfold and reveal their complex but coherent sculptural structures over time and with extended looking, and are resistant to a quick and simple characterisation by configuration.
Maybe this is delusional. We shall see!
Tim, yes gravity is a powerful force but what I found really worked in Robin’s hung sculptures was the increased level of engagement, more could be seen from all angles and therefore became more accessible and understandable (for me).
Yes, OK. but I still like ‘Yellow Rattle’ the best – if only I could get rid of that wretched hook …!!
To quote from Wikipedia: “Gravity is the weakest of the four fundamental interactions of nature. The gravitational attraction is approximately 10 to the power of 38 times weaker than the strong force, 10 to the power of 36 times weaker than the electromagnetic force and 10 to the power of 29 times weaker than the weak force. As a consequence, gravity has a negligible influence on the behavior of subatomic particles, and plays no role in determining the internal properties of everyday matter.”
OK, so gravity is “responsible for many of the large scale structures in the Universe”, but maybe gravity is figurative! Alan has suggested that “UPressure” might be “drawn together by magnetic attraction and expanding by the same token.” Maybe abstract sculpture has to be founded upon something fundamentally different from figurative sculpture? I’m semi-serious about this, because it already is looking and feeling fundamentally different.
Yes, but the strong force, the weak force, and the electromagnetic force, are not the way we FEEL force. We feel force through the action of gravity on our bodies and our subsequent resistance to it. Seeing ‘forces’ on a screen is not the same as actually feeling it; lifting, running, jumping, being thrown about, etc., etc. That is why sculpture has always had to deal with gravity, since sculpture is the art of physicality.
I like Alan’s ‘magnetic’ idea very much (particularly relevant to your work); and it chimes with Tony’s ‘pressure’.
However ‘different’ abstract sculpture is going to be, I would have thought that it must satisfy the same aesthetic and visual responses in the human mind as it has always done, responses that are peculiar and particular to ‘sculpture’.
Although I didn’t make the discussion I saw these displayed shortly before. I haven’t watched the video all the wall through, but I was really struck by the denial by many of the sculptors about the huge change that hanging has brought about in Robin’s work – including Robin himself – with the exception (as far as I saw) of Alex. I can see why Tony didn’t want to have a big discussion about his in advance of looking at the sculptures – and agree it is important to look at the works individually – but I think really it needs to be faced.
Does Mark really think that these sculptures would be the same on a plinth? Would his sculptures remain the same if they were suspended even an inch above the ground? Tony wanted to locate the source of energy in one work at the junction where the hanging bar met the sculpture. Both these ideas seem to be more about what Mark and Tony want to happen in a sculpture rather than what was actually happening.
For me the hanging completely changes of all the relations within the works. Looking at the floor based works that Robin had displayed nearby each seemed (albeit to differing extents) caught in a struggle to get off the ground, their upper sections free to move in all the complex ways that Robin enjoys so much, their lower sections bogged down by the ground. This was most evident in Yellow Rattle the hanging piece which touched the ground, which seemed to me to fail by being split in two. Whereas all the floor-based works were bogged down, all the hanging ones seemed liberated. Of course further looking will create finer distinctions within each group of works.
I agree with Robin that a visual / physical continuum is a handy way of looking at things, and that sculpture – as we understand it – will always be a mix of both (Greenberg thought the same). But I think I disagree about how far he has moved along it, how visual they are. His love of painting across here – love of the freedom of painting, a medium, protected by the bottom of the frame, that is also cut off from gravity. I think this move is also consistent with the adoption of wood, in its visual bias, and its move away from physical pressure as the main generator of structure.
Does the denial come from the fact that hanging the works – in a single move – solves (or avoids) the central problem of much Brancaster sculpture – perhaps a difficulty for Robin and Mark more than Tony – which is how to get all this complex stuff off the ground?
Very helpful comment, Sam. Thanks!
Had Robin’s show of new work been totally hung I would agree with you Sam.But it was 50-50 with one piece both partially hanging and standing. [ Yellow Rattle ]. Options were being kept open and hanging was only part of the experiment.
If the standing sculptures were in your opinion struggling with the ground that is a criticism of those pieces. If you were to take the view that standing on the ground is a part of the opportunities for sculpture then in a similar way ,as I thought on the day,one could consider transferring all of that to the ‘ hang ‘ as a source of energy similar to standing ,resting , etc moving on the ground. Were that to be the case in theory the sculpture would somehow need to connect physically with you so as to release its meaning.
However neither suggests an automatic increase in ‘the abstract ‘ in the work.
That the underside of the sculpture is freed up, well yes literally it is [ but you would not lie underneath to see what was going on and in a similar way we are more often than not denied the top view of most abstract sculpture from above]. Therefore the onus really falls on the plastic three dimensionality of the sculpture how that is expressed in ways to assimilate and create a sculptural whole. I would suggest that this experiment asks interesting questions about three dimensionality and whether that is something you can see in its entirety or if it is something to be perceived through its ability to express itself as a whole.
All of this boils down to a show that is interesting and as yet the work is keeping its options open…Good.
I have to be careful here because I have not seen the work and am commenting from photographs. However, a point that I have already mentioned to Robin,(separately) returns all the time to my mind in relation to all that has been said above; that is that the ‘hanging’ / ‘suspension’ of the relevant pieces is not integral with the structure of those pieces, and therefore induces an alien feel to the visual thrust and three dimensionality) of the piece(s); what I called the chandelier or cloud effect, i.e. insubstantial.
I had suggested that it might have been possible to make the suspension mechanism an integral part of the sculpture’s forces by shaping it along with the other forms to produce an inverse ‘grounding’. On the other hand the sheer distance involved might well preclude that particular direction. Until, unless, it is tried in practice, it simply remains a niggle.
I agree with Tony that the ‘underside’ viewing could be a red herring despite having said above that it had been overlooked in past sculpture and might lead somewhere His point about the ‘top’ of sculpture is very relevant.
What is obviously terrific about this show is that it has stimulated so many thoughts about possibilities in sculpture that might or might not provide new ways of thinking and working.
I don’t think you need to lie under the hanging sculptures to see, and to clearly have available to the eye, the whopping big difference in how the sculptures work as total three-dimensional entities. The simple thing of the sculpture not ending on a plane is in itself profoundly different, and that could only previously be achieved by welding to a base-plate, which has its own problems. And then there is the air under the work, which has to be significant.
I am avoiding saying that because of the hanging they are more whole or better as sculptures, that’s not for me to pronounce on, but I do feel the potential for that has at the very least changed, and probably increased. I have already commented that I am working at the moment to see if any of the lessons learnt in hanging can be carried over into stuff on the floor. I would say, based on the experience of doing this series, that hanging feels to me no more foreign or distancing than putting work on a plinth, and is possibly less intrusive and restrictive. I certainly don’t think this work feels “insubstantial”, or falls into the “chandelier effect”, or lacks a physical connection to the viewer – far from it. And for what it’s worth, nobody at the discussion seemed to imply that they felt that was the case.
I also think, for whatever reason, that some of this work is more abstract than anything I’ve made before.
Another thing that I think is different here, and that we perhaps haven’t seen focused on so much before, is a kind of lateral three-dimensional expansion that is very differently experienced, physically, compared to the vertical lift more often encountered in a floor-based work. This aspect is probably the thing that has prompted me to make adjustments to some of the work since the talk. After all, Tim, gravity is not the ONLY way we experience force or pressure, physically or otherwise.
You can, of course, experience them purely visually, but the eye is governed by the brain and the brain’s messages come from experience; in the case of physicality – from the body – how else ?
Tim said: “that the ‘hanging’ / ‘suspension’ of the relevant pieces is not integral with the structure of those pieces, and therefore induces an alien feel to the visual thrust and three dimensionality) of the piece(s); what I called the chandelier or cloud effect, i.e. insubstantial.”
Negative criticism can sometimes more accurately reveal a work’s positive qualities, to the extent a third party doesn’t accept the negatives attributes identified as being negative. In this sense, I think Tim’s doubts over the pieces are pretty much the most telling comments here. I don’t think the pieces are insubstantial, and they look like clouds more than they do chandeliers (are clouds insubstantial? only in certain ways) but I do think they are un or perhaps more precisely anti physical, with an feel somewhat alien to their visual thrust and three-dimensionality. However I think this is what is exciting about them. In a funny way they remind me of Tim’s 60s sculptures I’ve just seen in the Tate store, which have similar paradoxical oppositions running through them. In so many ways so very different from each other, they are more like different sides of the coin, rather than unrelated phenomena.
(Physics is a bit of a red herring imo – especially when – I think I am right in saying – no one here is a physicist. Things look, feel and experienced in ways that are disconnected (misunderstand?) the physical explanation of them, particularly very basic physical explanations of them).
Why do they need to hang from just one bar? Could they not really stretch laterally rather than bunching and hinting at this dispersal? Rather than using the lessons of the hanging sculptures to change the floor-based pieces, I hope there is more exploration of what hanging throws up in the air.
Tim, Yes but my point was that there are lots of bodily sensations of forces that are not gravity – and in fact we are often far more conscious of these than we are of the effects of gravity. For example, a hug!
I just don’t think you can properly say that gravity is central to sculpture – even to figurative sculpture. Physicality, yes, much more so (along with, particularly in abstract sculpture, spatiality and three-dimensionality), but the range of physicality is something to be explored, not narrowed. Even Rodin did that, and there are lots of Rodins (and Degas) that defy or even ignore gravity to pursue other kinds of physicality.
Sam, despite perhaps my different emphasis upon the physical/visual “continuum” (which I agree with), I do think you are quite wrong in thinking they are not physical. Maybe you should come and have another look. And carrying on from my last comment, it seems to me that in, say, UPressure, the sculpture induces the air under the work to put pressure upwards (hence the title) back on the work. That’s how it feels to me, and that is very physical. What comes to mind (and I know I’m going to get in trouble for this) is Constable, and the way that his trees are put under pressure between sky and earth in a way that no other painter does. That’s always been an inspirational idea to me. Far-fetched? Maybe.
I think anti-physical is better than not physical. I think its the sense they have of getting away from the way physicality is generally talked / thought / sculpted (constructed?) about in Brancaster that is exciting about them…
Sam, I think your anti-Brancaster prejudices are showing – another false dichotomy. These works are decidedly not anti-Brancaster, and are absolutely the result of my involvement, and the input of all the other people involved, espescially the comments and work of the other sculptors. Without that scrutiny and the rigour of the yearly round of discussions, this work, for better or worse, would not have happened. The discussions and the progress of the work are very much a continuum.
If the physicality of the work is different in some way, perhaps more abstract and less directly beholden to the physical body, then all to the good, but that will still be a result of Brancaster, and something we can openly discuss here. You cannot drive a wedge, or even a cigarette-paper, between what has happened in Brancaster and any achievement of this work.
I think that is a somewhat paranoid reading of what I’m saying. The hanging may have resulted from Brancaster but still be opposed to many of the values associated with the work made by the participants and how it is discussed. I think it also under-values the work (and would potentially undervalue any artist involved) to suggest it can only be understood within the context of the immediate discussion around it. The work needs to live in the wider world!
The values associated with the work made by participants of Brancaster are forever up for grabs,despite what you might think. The proof is where we are now.
I have not mentioned anything to do with the context of how it is understood, only the process by which it was arrived at. Of course it should live in the big wide world.
Perhaps you think, Sam, that you knew better all along…?
I don’t know what you mean by the second comment. It’s pure rhetoric to suggest that there are not shared (and necessarily limited) values between the Brancaster sculptors both in their work and in their discourse. I’ve suggested that the work is an exciting way forward that breaks some of these conventions. I don’t think this was a hostile or even hugely controversial point but to be honest now I’m not sure why I bothered…
What I have said is in no way intended as hostile either, and I’m grateful for your contribution to the site, but you are suggesting to me that somehow you feel you are a more objective observer than those involved in Brancaster. Maybe, but you cannot parachute in without giving Brancaster due credit for what you are now saying is something you like.
Does the ‘ hang ‘ explore the business of three dimensionality, does it free up the material within the sculpture to do what it is doing, does it free up the space within the sculpture , does it free up the space around the sculpture ?
So I put to you, can physicality or non physicality or anti physicality be felt isolated from three dimensionality ?
Thus far the ‘ hang ‘ which is a thing and from this thing suspended in space is a non thing which is a sculpture. That to me is as far as this debate has got . I think Sam’s idea of more connections to the ceiling may simply take us back to the debate about ‘ legs ‘.If sculpture is an illusion and does not live in the world of the human body literally ,so from that angle of examination , the possibilities of an illusionary relationship to a floor plane would,we know, be able to establish the world of the sculpture from the world of the floor plane. As yet the hook , and how it does and does not take hold of [ is it sculpturally or literally ? ] is the aspect of this new work that has been least explored.
In the actual Chronicle there were feelings expressed of strong physical and three dimensional structures running out from the lift out and through the piece. These observations were rejected and what takes their place to be the three dimensionality is for me the aspect of what the debate should be looking at.
This is a very good debate for sculpture now because the ‘ hang ‘ and its relation ‘ to three dimensionality ‘ ? does turn the world upside down.
As it stands at the moment it is literally controversial but already the debate around it ,in my mind, puts the spotlight on what sort of world a sculpture can now occupy. That ,as against all of the things ,all of those ‘ realities ‘ that the sculpture of today has rejected.
And so is that, for you, the world of a more imaginative three-dimensionality? In its own world of illusion? How far do you go down this line?
(Looking forward to the next two Brancaster, coming soon!)
There was a lot of comments and statements about physicality and the transmission of power, importance of gravity. I have a small remark to these topics.
If one element of sculpture have to transmit strength to another one, they must be well fitted to each other.
There must be clear connections between two forms with some sufficient contact area to pass the energy.
And the forms should somehow react to each other (reaction visualised on the sculptural way – through the shapes of elements – their forms) – so that the observer see, theat there is really a chance of pass “somethig” from one element to the next. Then one can get the impression that elements of sculpture are able to really work as whole – physically and not only imaginative.
Elements can not be only putted tegether,touched with each other and welded (also the screws are really alien element in your sculptures).
In other case there is always the danger, that the inner (sculptural) dynamic, where the parts are working more physically, will chang in painterly „komposition” (like in works of criticised Picasso) where the dynamics (or impression of passing energy) depends more from relation of elements to the frame (in case of sculpture – to the ground) – the same case like in Tim`s Kajuracho II (I call this “Axis dynamics”).
In other words, If the elements do not really fit together (in their shapes, in their forms) the sculpture takes the character of …. an assembly and it loose its sense of phisical sculptural plasticity and dynamics in favoure of more imaginative (painterly) dynamics. (I know, we know that, but)
Sometimes I get the impression that there are still in these sculptures sections, which have such sort of thinkg about space occupation and paradoxically, the “non-sculptural” connections between elements.
Maybe this comes from to fast work and the desire to get results quick.
I think, one can see this even from foto and video. So this is not so, that it can`t be said, without standing in front of the sculpture.
To be clear , I like this sculptures, and accept them as they are.
This show is very impressive.
I am writing this comment because of the discussion and the difference i feel when I compare, the statements about physicality of sculpture and the work.
I agree that they are more „sculptural” in the sense you are searching for, than your previous works.
There are a lot of “rules” in your comment, Janusz!
I believe Robin, that these “rules” are well known to you. It is nothing new.
You can derive these not only from the work on sculpture, but also from the observation of any really existing object that develops its form under the pressure of gravity. For me, these ideas have become the most demanding answers while I was working in wood, which is not so resistant to tensions like steel (the wood has its resistance mainly in one direction), and it can`t be so easily combined as steel. In this sense, steel can be deceptive and seductive, by its ability to be easily constructed even through point-to-point connections – which I call non-sculptural or non-physical.
I think for Pevsner or Caro these rules were not so relevant, but for your intentions (as I understand them from your statements) they seem to be important.
Nothing new, no. These are old rules. I don’t play by them. I don’t develop my sculpture to mimic forms under the pressure of gravity. Neither do you, in your conceptual objects. Funnily enough, i’d rather not be lectured by a conceptual object-maker as to what I can and can’t do. I’m sure you can understand the sentiment. Thanks anyhow for the previous comment.
When I saw some of these works back in April and learnt that they would remain hanging, I thought this was a great move. Potentially controversial yes, but decisive and so very much about eradicating that issue of how the sculpture gets off the floor and driving further and further at a fuller three-dimensionality. The fact that it is stirring such debate is excellent, because it means that there are so many more things for Robin to experiment with, so many more possibilities and future problems to tackle. Getting them off the ground is just one small step, possibly the easiest part. Now that it is done and (in my opinion) is working so well, it will be very exciting to see just what else can happen with it. It seems as natural to me as the inclusion of wood now looks. This is not to detract from the element of surprise and originality that these developments bring to the table, but rather to acknowledge that initial surprises can wear off, and hopefully we are left with something longer lasting to enjoy, even gnaw away at.
There are of course going to be issues with hooks being like inverted plinths or even legs, but I think it is possible to overlook some of those literal problems, not only because the hook requires only one point of contact (so far), but because Robin has put so much exciting stuff into these sculptures. If it was just some minimalist cube dangling off a hook, or even just a few nicely welded bits of steel, maybe even with a bit of wood bolted on, then yes, you would got to the hook, because it would have equal presence in the whole visual array. From what I can make out, there isn’t that sort of opportunity here.
Maybe there is in Yellow Rattle, because the viewer will bring their own awareness that the top half could not stand up without being suspended from above. Nevertheless, I really liked it when I saw it. I enjoyed the drama of it. I didn’t think of it as “theatrical”, but can see why it could be thought of that way.
Just a quick note too about UPressure… I think that the upward push from the space beneath it is evident in the photographs and in the video, so I can imagine the feeling of seeing that in the flesh being incredibly strong.
On another note that could relate somewhat to the debate about three dimensionality and what the value of it might be, this could be worth a look…
It’s a panel discussion from a few years ago about the future of sound and music. Some of it gets a bit tiresome and rather speculative, but I would draw particular attention to the contribution made by Phil Brophy, especially from about 20-30 minutes in, though he has great stuff to say throughout about the totality of sound, it’s totally immersive three dimensional quality, and how wondrous it can be for for its ability to make us feel completely insignificant. Brophy is also very clear about his disapproval of the “dumb way” that sound has been written about, and is all for doing away with the hang ups about the inadequacy of language to describe what we are perceiving, or what he calls the “post enlightenment taboo” of not wanting to unravel and shatter the illusion of music. He reckons he has language at his disposal, and he will use it to describe in detail exactly what he is hearing. I think this has some, if not a very strong relationship to what Brancaster endeavours to achieve, recognise and act upon.
Sam….Yet again you raise an interesting point about how work is talked about in the Brancaster Chronicles. To restate the obvious .generally speaking a typical Brancaster Chronicle comprises a group of Abstract painters and sculptors working NOW. They respond to the work without a couple of weeks to think about it .They speak almost their first thoughts,.It seems to be that the people who primarily DO something will talk about it in a DOING sort of a way.Their thoughts come from their personal experiences of LOOKING and DOING It does not fall immediately for those people to take an overview or a historical view or attempt to cross reference or sum up.
What I see ,and I know you have been present at some of them so you should have seen,is people caught up in the excitement of seeing the latest work of another artist.It is as honest as it can be, is fairly brief and I’m sure you could find other ways you could discuss and different things would happen if say we discussed the same work a couple of years down the line.
The problem is that this work never goes anywhere. By and large the venues we used to exhibit in have been closed off to Abstract art . Even in the 70’s a piece of sculpture could appear in one year in 5 different locations and be reviewed each time by a different person. How marvellous! Then it could have been bought by the Tate or The Art’s Council and go off on a travelling show…Get the idea ? …
Maybe it is your world Sam that is limited. Our work did live in a wider world .
I think the point is, our world, however wide or narrow is acknowledged as being wider than it would be without the annual exhibitions of the Brancaster Chronicles.
Are you part of the problem or part of the solution ?
Because we are doing all we can.
I’m not sure it what way I could be considered part of the problem. Name the other curators who have recently included Brancaster work in an exhibition! It may be true that the discussions are generally focused around direct responses but the people taking part DO take a historical overview. See for a recent example, Robin’s comment on Abcrit under the Richard Smith article.
Anyway this isn’t going anywhere, I’ll let you guys get on with it…
Just to preface these comments – I have yet to see the film sorry and was only there that day briefly pre-filming having to dash off for a prior commitment, so have not had much time with these works. But I wanted to post something:
I really enjoyed seeing them. They had a real energy about them. I was aware of their ‘weight’ and really felt the gravitational force that the sculptures had hanging in the air. It could be the clustered massing that further builds this sense of weight. I am not certain about it …yet, but they do not feel like they are floating and therefore the hook is not neutral. (I did wonder like Sam about using more than one hook) They did not look like things made on the floor and hoisted though – a bit like cropping in painting in a way (I have seen work in situ in the midst of development and seen sections suspended waiting to connect with other parts – I am guessing that a realisation to go from there and not connect back up to a lower section has been made and run with? – this is a visual decision and probably why it’s promoting such rich interactions here.
The hook rods also acted as a sort of plumb line about which the forms are deposed. I wondered about this and how a prevailing sense of balance accompanies the work even in mid-air. Is that in some way figurative?
The several ‘penetrative’ tubes which poked through holes in wooden sections also troubled me for some reason – they felt ‘literally’ provocative – akin to the hook on one which just grabbed into a hollow. It could be the loss of structural intent though having said that the hook is nothing but ultimately. Does it matter? I don’t know to be frank, but I did wince a little at the time.
These works have a sense of ‘placement’ inherent in their decision making too which could be seen to not be harnessing the ‘pressures’ that a more ‘accumulative’ form / structure approach could create.
I made a large number of small thick ‘roll’ paintings in the mid-nineties. (have one on the front page of my website) The most resolved works (which came about after a pretty unrelenting amount of work/ “practice” were ‘sequential’ – one roll of colour led to another in rows – the sequences built up into a whole. It was like digging and not coming up for air to look at what had been dug – I just kept putting another colour down – varying the size maybe, the facture, the width – they generated their own logic I had worked in a similar sort of way as a student also but with ‘blocky’ shapes in rows. I can see in Tim’s paper works shown a while back a certain accumulative similarity in approach (maybe tenuous) – which is at odds with Robin’s here – they (Tim’s) just kept going, pushing and shuffling, forcing their way onwards building up a structural momentum and pressure. There is no sense of let’s put a piece over here, walk around and have a look at it. Their growth takes care of that. Whereas Robin’s have that weighing up and cross-checking across space-quality about them – a different way of working. Robin’s could also be related to Fauvism even (at a stretch) when you see loose strokes of synthesised colour (pieces of steel / wood) constructing a whole -changing direction as they go.
I am intrigued by the desire to see the whole logic at one go – a structure revealing itself and confirming its logic in this way could also become theoretical as a goal could it not?. A solid larger piece that blocks out a whole section would be a problem for example. I would like to hear more on that issue clarified – as I suspect would other readers….Tony..?
I can’t escape the feeling that dealing with the floor is such a difficult challenge to a sculptor that to lift the work up off it and bypass this is a sleight of hand move. Again though I am happy to concede I am not yet familiar / tuned in to what is going on and need more time to chew over it. Something these works have in abundance is an open-ended questioning of how to make something more expressively three-dimensional – which is really good.
The wood adds a bigger scale to the proceedings and although there is a duality of form relationship thrown up by it – you could see the wood sections as one set of relationships and the steel as another – I didn’t take them in in this way at all; they had a unified logic – perhaps the bolts helped in this regard. There were remnants of previous ways of working too – with the ‘silhouetted’ steel bits “Litchitomitchi” top right curly for example. The best bits of the newer approach are the sections (in the majority now) with multiple bits building and redefining their meta-sections and – I would assume – facilitating a discovery and forcing ‘brave’ decision making – as it’s not straightforward to put another piece on and lose a nice bit in the hope that a richer reality will ensue; you’re fighting your taste. I felt this added a rich density to the work.
“Yellow Rattle” is not cluttered at the bottom and seems to have the best of both worlds – floor and space, yet it is clearly not stable enough to do without the hook. Would it be losing something then to figure out a way to build it back to stand without it, or is that again a ‘figurative’ obligation? They seem to be dealing with balance one way or the other. The best work I have seen from Robin and the most interesting debate around it too.
Thanks Emyr. See my very first comment for my take on the possible difference between my way of working and Tim’s.
Going back a bit I’m afraid.
Robin, when you have your hug, you can FEEL the physicality, the volume, the mass, the density (of the hugee!), all of which properties are subject to gravity.
Sam, I did not mean to imply that.the sculpture LOOKED like clouds, chandeliers etc., merely that there was a danger of the (suspension) creating that EFFECT (insubstantial). Which was why I made suggestions that the mechanism of suspension could have been better integrated in some way or another.
Well, it’s perhaps an interesting idea, Tim. What do you think about your sculpture “Song for Rythm 1” where you, in effect, integrated the base into the sculpture?
I haven’t got the pics. here but I think I know the one you mean. In fact I think i have done more or less that with several pieces. So the problem is an old one: how do you hit the ground,? How do you get rid of the idea of a base ? or, in your case, how do you leave it ? My point is that IF you are going to suspend them, and why not if it gives some added sculptural meaning, I feel the urge to have hanging / suspension (if I were doing it) as a PART of the forms (and spaces), rather than just a functional device. So maybe that is just me, or maybe not? As I said before, since you are using steel (in part), you have adequate stuff to do it with.
“Song for Rythm 1”, with its pole and baseplate, is for me an extreme example of the problem of literal structure in abstract sculpture, and as you say, its an old problem. The thought of having an even larger “contraption” extending from the ground, up and around the top of the sculpture in order to incorporate the hanging seems the opposite of what I’m trying to do, though it has been an interesting thought-excercise to consider it. That really would make “hanging” the whole content of the work.
I would maintain, despite all this useful input (and a bit of uncalled-for advice) from the comments, that I can use the hanging, as and when it feels OK to do so, as a relatively neutral way of showing the work. Whether I go back on the ground or hang the work in future will depend upon the work, not the theory, and it is to me just another OK way of doing things (I’m far more resistant to the use of a plinth, though I’m not sure why, and even that I don’t rule out).
I think the point is that the game has changed for me very radically over the past year or two, from being a quest to somehow deliver on an expressive use of what I see as the conventional use of object-structure in sculpture, which I think is basically quite a figurative way of thinking, to a much more freewheeling and spontaneously open approach to three-dimensional content, that can move and roll and turn about in space in as uninhibited a way as possible, and seems to me to be more and more abstract. That process is far from over, and the hanging thing is just a step on the way.
We are talking 25 – 30 years ago, and it probably seemed like a good idea at the time to try to integrate literal structure: bases, welded plates, legs etc.,into the main body of the work and its expressive vocabulary.
As far as the hanging idea is concerned, I already said that it is probably ruled out because of the sheer length (distance) involved.
Yes indeed, the game has changed; the question is HOW to change.it; The ‘onward of sculpture’ as Caro called it, depends on it.
When we first started looking at sculpture in Brancaster four or five years ago, there was a debate about whether it was “organic” or not, which was mooted as something in opposition to “abstract”. Looking back, that seems to have been prompted by the image of the work, rather than its content – that it looked a bit like a bush, or something growing branch-like from the bottom upwards.
What I think has begun to emerge over the past few years is a “deep” methodology in both making and thinking that might now more legitimately be described as organic, because it privileges building from small-scale vital content rather than overall, top-down impositions of object-structure of any kind.
There is talk in the film about this resulting in work that resolves itself in a kind of “lumpen” shape. without much in terms of extensions out into space. I think this will not only work itself out with time (if it needs to), but also that it signals a very different and healthy kind of approach to the business of achieving wholeness that takes its vitality and movement from an unstoppable internal momentum of passage-to-passage activity. This is particularly true if the work no longer has to spring from the ground upwards, or even have a fixed orientation, but can articulate itself in a myriad of ways.
Abstract sculpture now feels really “open”.
Ok – have chewed this over now. The hook is a red herring for me really. It seems a pragmatic way get the ‘stuff’ up and running and a really good way to work on it around eye level to engage with it head on and deal with the challenges of making it get beyond its stuff-ness and to start operating. It compels a more immediate engagement in a way – losing the artifice of ‘this is a sculpture’ and moving into ‘here’s some three-dimensional work – deal with it’ (‘ave it’ would be the Welsh valleys vernacular –and if Art has an ‘ave it quality – it’s tops!)
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There are some notes posted on my new website https://robingreenwood.com/blog/ about this set of sculptures and its relation to last years work, along with newer pictures which show the recent reworking of some of these pieces.