Brancaster Chronicle No. 69: Robin Greenwood Sculptures
9th March 2019, London.
Taking part: Robin Greenwood, Sarah Greenwood, Charley Greenwood, Simon Greenwood, Calum Greenwood, Anne Smart, Anthony Smart, Hilde Skilton, Mark Skilton, Noela James, Alexandra Harley, Richard Ward, Steven Walker, Patrick Jones, Luke Pagarini, John Pollard, John Pluthero.
Would it possible to number the untitled sculptures?
Sculptures are now numbered Sam.
A week on from the posting of Robin’s Chronicle, having watched the film and studied the photographs, these questions arise, in that for me they are not covered in the film.
The pieces I am referring to are those ‘all steel ‘ sculptures between nos. 11 to 19. No 6, which I still like, and can still ‘feel’ in my mind, is for me a ‘one off’ in this show. Nos. 7 to 10 I am still thinking about . My question with them as with Nos. 3 4 and 5 is just to what extent they are ‘collage’ constructions. The problem here might be what the ‘separateness ‘ associated with collage may be doing to the space or my problem may lay with me. I liked them when I first saw them [7 to 10 ]. No. 6, as I have already said is really good , but my favourite, at the moment, maybe one or even all of the ‘all steel’ works Nos. 11 to 19.
Are these sculptures original?
Leaving aside all the debate around this issue, I look for originality because it is one condition of my second question.
Are they Abstract ?
Those sculptures I spent most of my time discussing in the film are the pieces on the day I felt to be most compelling. Because of the way they come together and all the particularities of such and the ‘natural’ feel of the material being transformed into collaborative passages which together formed a whole, that is not something I can associate with being second hand.
The best of them feel ‘invented’ across all levels and I can only sense the history of the particular use of the material as having a ‘feel’ of Robin’s own , here and in previous work. When an artist is “looking over their shoulder” so to speak, the outcome is telling and will be more predictable because when something is found, there is an energy which springs from that finding and the surprise that accompanies it. We saw that last year with Alex’s sculpture ‘Brindille’ and also with Mark’s ‘Brian’ 2016 and ‘Greedy’ 2012.
Are they Abstract?
This for me follows on the back of that first question. My rather extreme take on abstract would want originality to be a pre-condition of Abstract. I can’t see any set of characteristics of form etc. that could be laid out for Abstract, I think its self referential nature is just one of the ‘balls in the air’.
Are they three-dimensional in a ‘plastic and spatial’ way?
Again the group I refer to i believe are, why? Because they allow themselves to be discovered. They evolve across open space, taking it to themselves and are, as I said on the day, able to keep that developing, ‘ moving form’ capable of keeping going!
I have seen most of these sculptures twice. I have poured over the photographs and the film.
As I see it this is a very very good show of original, Abstract and three dimensional sculpture.
Here is something of my experience this past two weeks that I though was different and special. I have not had many visitors to the show since the Brancaster talk (I wouldn’t have expected many anyway), but there have been a handful of people who have applied a great deal of time and effort and close and concentrated looking to their visits here, especially when addressing the sculpture (though the paintings also got some good attention). Thanks to them all. What particularly interested me was the method of looking at individual sculptures that one of my visitors demonstrated. I won’t mention names – they can comment if they so wish – but this particular person spent long and careful minutes (a total of about two and a half hours altogether!) looking at each of the sculptures in turn, and in a manner that I have not really seen happen before. His approach was actually not completely dissimilar to the way Tony, Mark and others looked at the work in Brancaster, but this seemed to have in some way an even greater focus and a different approach. Each sculpture was addressed from several directions in turn, often very close-by (sometimes from a distance too) and often looking almost directly down at the work, with head and body in movement, sideways, backwords, forwards etc., with the viewer’s legs positioned close to the work, but flexed to accommodate movement of the upper body in order to see everything from different directions; then the viewpoint was shifted around a little, looked at again, and seen together differently, as all the parts in all their complexity began building into a thing that operated as (what I hope is, at least in some cases) a fully three-dimensional whole. (Note: no fixed viewpoints or any kind of frontal images dominate the work! Also, the sculptures do more than just travel from A to B along an extended length of material which ultimately comes to an end, physically or not. In these works, parts circulate back and forth in as varied a manner as possible. It seems to me possible to engage this way with a much more extensive three-dimensionality than figurative or semi-abstract organisational structures have used, including my own previous work.) Not only was this way of looking at my sculpture fascinating for me to watch happening – the way that someone else might take hold of the work in this way, differently and personally, in a manner that felt almost more intense that my own making/looking (and certainly seeing things I haven’t seen!)… But there was also a strong and obvious enjoyment in looking at the work in this way, the acknowledgement of a certain degree of coherent togetherness in the intimacy of all the widespread varieties of complexity, as it occurred; and this was even sometimes demonstrated by the appearance of a smile of “recognition” of what was happening in the “deep” content of the work, connected with something very different from what is often seen in sculpture – perhaps a new and particularly personal way of addressing the true “abstract” of sculpture. As you can see, I’m totally in love with the possibilities of this approach.
This makes perfect sense. A sculpture is literally three dimensional so why not try and make something that works well from every angle? This seems ambitious.
I think it is interesting that two of my favourite sculptures from the day are quite different although both embody complexity. The first one had the coiled material integrated in a very interesting way with the other steel and also had fantastic (negative?) space between its material components, all different spaces but working well together. This continued as you walked around the work.
The other had a central top denser complex area full of different content, and with little ‘air’ between its material. In some ways this area looked like it sat on top of the rest of the sculpture. What balanced this area, for want of a better word, was a strong triangular wedge which held this complex denser area in tension, both because it looked ‘strong but because the triangular shape had real movement, being arrow shaped.
The other thing of interest for me is that the first sculpture had a recognisable ‘character’ as one walked around it, although it didn’t repeat itself. The second piece looked very different from different angles. Whether one way is better than another I don’t know. Probably down to the individual sculpture.
These two ways of doing things are related to the two main ways of painting and repeatedly arise in the Brancaster discussions: how diverse can you be in your content without it becoming dominated by certain areas? The other direction risks going into a repetitive patterned complexity which in a sense loses its complexity because of being patterned.
Coming back to the viewer you mention Robin it reminds us that in our conversations we are often not physically seeing things from the exact same specific viewpoint (and when sculpture is this complex that can matter).
I think with work that can embrace content of this complex kind, seeing things from different positions and getting variations is just natural and healthy, and we would never exactly agree, even with ourselves. I don’t think that really “matters”, and I don’t think there is a “right” way of looking at this work that would a have a single “finish” to the content. I would like to think the work could continue to develop and open out, in different ways for different people.
Although the talk at Brancaster is mostly about more formal characteristics like degree of abstraction, three-dimensionality etc. I can imagine that one significant achievement of this new sculpture is an opening up of sculpture´s expressive potential.
Supposing that at least one kind of engagement with sculpture involves “feeling” it in terms of a bodily projection, akin to the spatial projection that happens with painting, it seems to me that the compact and internally complex structure of these works encourages something other than the “kinetic” projection that happens with conventional sculpture based (however abstractly) on the external human form. In the absence of extruding “limbs” activating the surrounding space with potential movement, the kinetic projection is weakened and the feeling of these sculptures becomes literally more visceral – a projection of subjective-internal rather than movement-based-external bodily awareness. That in turn opens up the expressive possibilities of sculpture into new areas of subjective experience.
Just as different spaces convey feelings which are projected together with the virtual space into a painting, our internal bodily awareness is strongly associated with all sorts of secondary subjective states as evidenced by the language we use: heart-felt, gut-wrenching, spleen, gall, breath-taking, hard to digest, stomach-butterflies, tongue-tied etc. etc.
Maybe these complex, “spherical” works can tap more readily into these other kinds of bodily awareness.
Wow! None of this seems part of what I’m doing. I shrink slightly when even Tony mentions physicality. Must be my big hang-up.
…any chance of some more views of these two particularly the one on the right?..please,,
The three new photographs clearly show what the sculpture is made of…the parts/things in all of their variety.
What they do not show is the outcome of those ‘parts’ being brought together and how, in investigating the ‘whole’ of the sculpture by seeing different views, it is possible to re-configure in ones imagination, the new ‘order’ of things as a result of these juxtapositions.
That the parts are very different to each other in ‘isolation’, makes it harder for the viewer of the photograph to move their own thinking to the next level to gain some order in pursuit of purpose.They keep themselves separate because of their identity.
Compare this sculpture [in the three photographs] to the paper Tim Scott sculptures which i wrote about from photographs and the difference is very noticeable.The anonymous nature of the paper unit invites any amount of re-configuring in ones imagination in response to their positioning.
This observation in no way suggests that one is better than the other but points to the differences that arise as a result of decisions made about unit complexity.
More wood! Give us more wood!