Brancaster Chronicle No. 49: Mark Skilton Sculptures

“Artful Anaconda”, 2017, steel, H153x205x196cm

15th July 2017, the artist’s studio near Bath.

Taking part: Anne Smart, Anthony Smart, John Pollard, Alexandra Harley, Robin Greenwood, Sarah Greenwood,  Hilde Skilton, Mark Skilton, Noela James, Shelley Latham.

 

 

“Artful Anaconda”, 2017, steel, H153x205x196cm [view 2]

“Artful Anaconda”, 2017, steel, H153x205x196cm [view 3]

 

“Bashful Boomslang”, 2017, steel, H89x98x111cm

“Bashful Boomslang”, 2017, steel, H89x98x111cm [view 2]

“Bashful Boomslang”, 2017, steel, H89x98x111cm [view 3]

 

“Vivacious Viper”, 2017, aluminium, H57x56x78cm

“Vivacious Viper”, 2017, aluminium, H57x56x78cm [view 2]

5 comments
  1. Looking at the photos here of the large sculpture “Artful Anaconda”, I’m given to doubt my own opinion on the day of the discussion. It looks really good in these photos. That’s not to say that I didn’t value it very highly indeed at the time, but I think the photos have resolved (or don’t show) the problems I was pretty sure that it had, as expressed in the film.

    It’s often the case with Mark’s work that my opinions are modified or reversed on a second look, and on seeing last year’s main work “Brian the Boa Constrictor” again this year, I thought it looked very clear and open, and quite different from how it appeared last year (which might indicate a moving forward of all our thinking?). Mark himself seemed to suggest he wanted to move away from that clarity to something more “obscured” in the structure of the new work. I can understand that, though only perhaps on my own terms. The literal structure of “Brian the Boa Constrictor” relies to some degree on a reasonably accessible “spine” running through the bottom-middle of the work and turning up to support the highest area; other areas are hung off of this “spine”. This characterisation is very poor and does scant justice to the “fabulousness” of the work (both works, new and old, are fabulous), but it does finger the thing that I think perhaps Mark wanted to change, namely the reading of the work as an object-structure of ANY kind. By introducing yet more complexity to the literal structure of the new work (down the bottom, mainly, where actual, literal support work takes place) in an attempt to obscure or confound this reading, it appeared to me that the wonderful and amazing and diverse parts of the sculpture were not really integrated into the whole space of the work, but somewhat held “on show” within the bounds of an inadvertent overall “shape” – a sort of “dish”, from the bottom, up and out.

    The photographs don’t show this “problem”, if such it is, and I suspect nor does the film (I haven’t watched it all through), but the photos solve (in an unreal way!) the problem by jamming all the parts together in a manner that seems completely devoid of any literal structuring. Everything just piles in to everything else in a fantastic, physical, spatial way. I don’t think that the sculpture really did that – but if it did, or if it could be made to do that, it really would be amazing. And then, as Tony and I agree at one point in the film, you would no longer have a thing comprised of “parts” at all, but a whole thing, one space, albeit of a very complex and rewardingly involved kind of spatiality.

    I think the other two smaller works are for me of a lesser order, and more conventional. And very different. They need thinking about very differently… enough for now.

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  2. tony smart said:

    i have watched the film and am also surprised by how resolved the large piece looks in the photographs.
    The smaller ones suffer and do not look as good as they did on the day. The camera is creating a foreshortened image. “Artful 1” looks almost pictorial as a result whereas 2 and 3 look much more three dimensional. There is in the photos of the smaller pieces a lack of the subtle spatial realities on which their richness, variety, and specific three dimensionality depend.Even in their being unresolved all of the pieces are taking forward Mark’s very particular feeling for space and material. In regard to last years “Brian” his ambition is for a world beyond its now seemingly more open and clearly available three dimensionality.
    I think there is a reason why these pieces remained unresolved [ in the group’s opinion on the day ]. I would suggest that Mark is trying to address that ambition I mentioned that space ,material , three dimensionality, wholeness etc etc must evolve together and that is very difficult.
    I am not clear from what you say Robin why you have had a change of mind….perhaps you could say more and why ?

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    • I haven’t changed my mind, and wouldn’t want to do so without seeing the work again – I was just struck by the apparent integration of everything in the photos of “Artful”, which doesn’t tally with my memory.

      I think there is a difference between finding a good way out of the three-dimensional “disappointment” of an obvious clarity of literal structure, and the wilful obscuring or masking of that structure. That doesn’t solve the problem. I’m not really sure that is what Mark has done, but it did seem from what he said that he maybe had that kind of intention.

      But I agree with the rest of what you say, and we should keep an open mind about the two smaller works.

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  3. Mark Skilton said:

    There is no attempt to wilfully obscure and confuse, although I do confess to causing some confusion in this regard, at the beginning of the talk.
    The point that I was trying to make was that I don’t think that clarity can be achieved literally by allowing as much space as possible around each part, but rather by increasing complexity of methods of construction;changes of scale; movement, fluidity, speed etc. This is what I was attempting in Artful Anaconda, resulting in a lot of crossover and intelocking of different passages, which results in a lot of obscuring but generates a spatial resonance at the same time.
    Clarity is arrived at through allowing the sculpture to work on many different levels, to allow many different ways to access the plastic three dimensionality, movement, space, structure and so on, so that at the point of clarity the intentionality becomes quite specific.
    I agree that these sculptures are unresolved, although I dont necessarily think that integration is the right approach. I have always liked to keep the separateness of parts both at the small scale of individual pieces of material and at the large scale of interacting but separate forms. I think that this gives greater scope for the sculpture to develop beyond a lump, dish or symmetrical sphere. The downside of this approach is that you end up with a lot of forms that look organic or figurative;albeit superficially; . Which is what I am trying to deal with at present.

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  4. “The point that I was trying to make was that I don’t think that clarity can be achieved literally by allowing as much space as possible around each part, but rather by increasing complexity of methods of construction; changes of scale; movement, fluidity, speed etc.”

    I think that all of the Brancaster sculpture has (generally) improved by the breaking up of large areas of space between the material. In conjunction with diverse ‘parts’ this helps prevents a linear and limited reading of the sculpture. Complexity of methods can really help create interest (as can different materials (e.g. Robin’s work)) .

    “Clarity is arrived at through allowing the sculpture to work on many different levels, to allow many different ways to access the plastic three dimensionality, movement, space, structure and so on, so that at the point of clarity the intentionality becomes quite specific.”

    To “work on many different levels” , with “many different ways to access”, seems ambitious and in keeping with the explicit three dimensional aspect of sculpture.

    “I have always liked to keep the separateness of parts both at the small scale of individual pieces of material and at the large scale of interacting but separate forms.”

    In my view this last point is pretty crucial to the concerns of both the painters and sculptors taking part in Brancaster: how to create meaning and value in all aspects of a truly spatial work without too much repetition, pattern, on the one hand and avoiding dead space/area, simple figure/ground, disconnected and unrelated parts, on the other.

    “I think that this gives greater scope for the sculpture to develop beyond a lump, dish or symmetrical sphere. The downside of this approach is that you end up with a lot of forms that look organic or figurative;albeit superficially; . Which is what I am trying to deal with at present.”

    Yes, I can identify with this issue. The way that some Brancaster artists work lessens this problem; an interesting debate perhaps here?

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