Brancaster Chronicles No. 73: Mark Skilton Sculptures
20th July 2019, the artist’s studio near Bath.
Taking part: Hilde Skilton, Mark Skilton, Anne Smart, Anthony Smart, Sarah Greenwood, Robin Greenwood, Charley Greenwood, Shelley Latham, Noela James, Steven Walker, John Pollard
As far as the film/discussion is concerned,[ and also his comment on my last chronicle ] I feel that Mark has in mind a new way of thinking about his pieces because of his new ambitions.
Something that did not look right was right now because of his new way of thinking.This, coupled with a gradual move away from the relational.
This change seemed to pivot around a shift from ‘physical’ to ‘visual’.
Usually the dialogue in a chronicle goes where it goes, for whatever reason, this way was a first for Mark.
My concern rests with the idea that a sculpture that is constructed can be seen as PRIMARILY visual. It is not just the putting to one side of a ‘habit’ but putting aside all of the information of the construction present and so real in the work.
I feel that maybe a different way of handling the material,going forward,is needed, playing down construction and playing down being made of parts, weirdly somehow more like you would get with carving!
The big reaction the work got, the WOW, of all of that activity,movement,detail etc.etc. for all of that to be seen and felt and understood in a different way would require more than a more educated audience.
The change would have to be felt from the detail upwards.
I get this and I am excited!
This seems like a good time to come back to Richard’s last comment.
It now seems appropriate to both Mark’s and my own chronicle.
‘Literal’ is the key word.
Deterministic and indeterministic, formulaic, physical ,three dimensional, visual,complex,variety etc.are always capable of falling foul of ‘literal’.
Richard’s idea that one could ‘feel’ what it is like to be the sculpture would require an imaginative engagement beyond just looking. This where i think Richard has got to the heart of it. If all of these notions of sculpture are physical and that ‘physical’ is ‘literal’ the maleur is that which is holding sculpture out of reach of real feeling, feeling that is genuinely sculptural.
The trouble with the literal is that it keeps the art work in a real ,logical world but by coincidence one much much more accessible to all. Hence the popularity of the grid and Mark’s ambition to be rid of structures.
So what am i advocating? Well, anything that disrupts the literal ! and hence the appropriateness of Richard’s comment and Mark’s ambition !
Two very thought provoking comments ,thank you.
For me, the problem with visual ness and complexity is; what happens to the meaning of the sculpture? It seems like the meaning is in the detail and the whole becomes less of a sculptural issue. At the moment the feeling and sensitivity is in the detail and the sculpture is experienced as an endless journey albeit in three dimensions. I have been trying to address this by making areas of differing density, and trying to make more specific volumes, but literalness tends to creep back in. Possibly because the bigger volumes don’t have as much meaning as the detail.
You might be right, Mark, but can you explain how the small details have meaning? Can they have any meaning individually? Doesn’t the sculpture as a ‘wholeness’ carry the meaning?
I like the ideas of areas of different density, but I don’t see them as inherently separately meaningful – not until the “whole” of all the parts is there. For example, might one want to chuck some parts out, and/or add different ones, to arrive at a completeness of meaning, complex or not? I think of that as true even when the complete meaning can be varied in different ways/readings by the activity of the parts, and how and when we look at them.
I think that there is meaning in the detail, in the physicality and flow of it.
I like your phrase “completeness of meaning”, does that not imply some kind of variation of parts that come together as an idea? Otherwise isn’t wholeness just a literal generalisation?
Here’s the thing that’s bothering me; I am really excited by the richness and visual freedom of complexity and fluidity, but am really disappointed that we can only get it to exist in a formless cluster. I would like the detail to add up to some sort of clarity, but at the moment this eludes me.
Getting the detail to work together is needed to achieve meaning, but that is when so much of the work is required – to find the “right” way for things that differ from one another to be put together to work in surprising ways. There is no predictability to this. On the whole, the greater the differences between parts, the more dynamic the movement from one part to another will be, and all the better. But it has to work in some way that is more often than not discovered spontaneously. Otherwise, one is working to an idea – which I don’t agree with.
I know this sounds a very strange thing to say about your work especially, and I might be very mistaken, for which I apologize, but I honestly did not feel that enough work had been done in each of these individual sculptures to make everything work together. This is despite so much amazing fabrication of parts being put in to their initial making – but that’s only the beginning, and maybe they just need more time and work. You have chosen to make huge, complete works that are extraordinarily difficult in lots of ways, but despite admiring them, I was not convinced by them, in exactly the thing we are discussing – meaning. I was confused by them. Maybe my fault!
I think when one feels that one “gets” the meaning of a work (though this may take a while; and may be honestly undefinable), it feels like clarity that is in concert with the complexity. It doesn’t have to be simple, but nor does it have to be complicated.
The thing is, it depends what kind of sculpture you want to make. Some time ago, I decided that I wanted to make work that was bigger than human scale, so that it takes time to get around it, you can move physically in and out of it and have it all around you, filling your entire visual field, so that your space becomes intimately integrated into that of the sculpture.
With Laomedeia; I know that there are areas which can be picked out as awkward or unresolved, but I left them because I did not want to destroy the furious visual energy that I had achieved. It is as though energy and space and material had become one thing, and achieved a resolution beyond that of the mere relationship of individual parts.
I guess then that I’m missing out. Maybe…!
It would seem rather challenging for the three dimensionality to leave in the sculpture, things that are not appropriate to that three dimensionality, which must surely over-ride the energy ?
Unless the energy is the three dimensionality?…
in which case they would not be awkward or felt to be unresolved.
In my mind what has happened to some sculpture since the 80’s is a gradual move towards a greater, gpurer more precise form of three dimensionality.
At the same time, and dragged along behind this great cause are some old issues of abstract sculpture.
This new kind of three dimensionality maybe is ‘wholeness’ and ‘meaning’ and unique to each piece as invention and discovery.As you look at this new sculpture in its non relational, plastic, spatial, flowing manner you perhaps take it in small passages [detail] , inevitably experienced over a period of time, moving with the fluidity, one experience informing and momentarily joining with others ,yet not ever being seen as a whole at the same time. This held, for a moment , in memory and replenished by more looking and feeling, close to or stepping back.
It can be talked about, but best in the presence of the work. As I have said before Mark is doing this, but as with everyone he balks at some quite unavoidable [at the moment] things like clusters. Who knows, they might be the best kind of form,provided they are accessible? Is a cluster an appropriate non-form ? They do not seem to impose themselves as images which may increase the necessity of the form to deliver the passages in the easiest possible ways.
I more or less agree with all of that. For me at the moment the way forward seems to be to forget about clusters but to be open to developments that may crop up within the work, that could carry it in a new direction. However some of these developments may be around the way that I look at the work, as well as what is done.
I’ve been looking again at Mark’s work from past years, and sometimes I feel like I’m playing catch-up with some of the pieces, particularly from 2016 and 2017 – Brian the Boa Constrictor and Artful Anaconda – which have an enormous amount still going for them. They have not lost their value and invention. The comments are interesting too. Someone should make a big long list of all the discussion points we have made over the years, put them all together and see if they make sense and progress.
The new work has emphasis on its repeated “standing” with the floor, maybe too much so, like perhaps Octopus Odyssey from last year (though not Cat Cradle). Maybe I’ll catch up with these too…
I presume it would be very empowering to give [ written and spoken ] a detailed description of a work of art, especially an abstract sculpture or even an abstract painting.
During the Chronicles, some of us have managed to describe positively,another artists work and accurately at times when the artist concerned agreed.
I think that Brian the Boa Constrictor presents itself to the world awaiting a full and exciting description, almost with a knowing smile, and on the day I remember it did happen.
Does “the value and invention” of that particular sculpture [and any others ] arrive because we believe it to be easier to understand and validate something we can describe?
If an abstract sculpture, or painting ,is impossible to describe, does that mean there is no easy access to move around trying to resolve its wholeness…or could it be that that wholeness is there all the time from the first look wherever you are …but no-one has seen it ….yet?
I would on the whole find things that are harder to describe are potentially the most valuable, since they are new and invented and not like anything we know already. Wouldn’t that mean “more abstract”, maybe? As you say, we may not have seen it yet.
However, we are talking about potential, not certainty.
I really like you notion that ‘things that are harder to describe are potentially the most valuable’ Robin.
Mark’s new sculptures have a great deal of visual ‘chatter’ and physical expressivenes, and so ‘speak’ for themselves, to a great extent.
Finding words helps me to broaden my mind and expand my ability to understand what abstract work is capable of.
I feel these sculptures, especially Laomedeia Liason, do have a wholeness in that there is a consistent visual connectiveness throughout.