Brancaster Chronicle No. 80: Tim Scott Sculptures
Liquefaction VI, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H50cm x L75cm x W85cm, view 1
The following are some basic precepts that I am attempting to follow in my work to make a new sort of abstract sculpture, building on the lessons of the past; but, hopefully, extending them into unfamiliar territory.
- a) Abandon all idea of an ‘image’; that is to say a visual ‘whole’ which IS the sculpture, saying what it has to say.
- b) To replace that with an open ended visual ‘entry’ into the work with the mind/eye, that enables multiple readings of plastic/spatial/physical ‘movements'(in the musical sense of the word) into, around, and within, the piece.
- c) The ‘whole’ now consists of the mind/eye ‘memory’ of the total of these visual journeys as explored in time, and physically, and could well change significantly with each viewing.
- d) The material, as always, dictates a particular ‘character’ and identity to the work; but is (hopefully) subsumed within fundamental ‘sculptural’ intentions. As with all materials, it dictates certain physical limits and aesthetic boundaries which have to be absorbed and forgotten.
I am aware, of course, that photography ((even multiple viewpoints) negate most of what I have outlined above. It is just something that sculptors have to live with.
Liquefaction VI, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H50cm x L75cm x W85cm, view 2
Liquefaction VI, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H50cm x L75cm x W85cm, view 3
Liquefaction VI, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H50cm x L75cm x W85cm, view 4
Liquefaction VI, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H50cm x L75cm x W85cm, view 5
Liquefaction VII, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H70cm x L80cm x W60cm, view 1
Liquefaction VII, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H70cm x L80cm x W60cm, view 2
Liquefaction VII, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H70cm x L80cm x W60cm, view 3
Liquefaction VII, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H70cm x L80cm x W60cm, view 4
Liquefaction VII, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H70cm x L80cm x W60cm, view 5
Liquefaction VIII, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H68cm x L85cm x W70cm, view 1
Liquefaction VIII, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H68cm x L85cm x W70cm, view 2
Liquefaction VIII, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H68cm x L85cm x W70cm, view 3
Liquefaction VIII, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H68cm x L85cm x W70cm, view 4
Liquefaction VIII, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H68cm x L85cm x W70cm, view 5
Liquefaction IX, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H75cm x L102cm x W75cm, view 1
Liquefaction IX, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H75cm x L102cm x W75cm, view 2
Liquefaction IX, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H75cm x L102cm x W75cm, view 3
Liquefaction IX, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H75cm x L102cm x W75cm, view 4
Liquefaction IX, 2019, plywood, laminated, glued and pinned, H75cm x L102cm x W75cm, view 5
This is not going to be easy, but Iam so pleased we are doing something. The plywood gives rise to an interesting directional line with the laminations. The flat faces are a different colour but still have changing tone across the surface. this combines to offer a rich complexity visually with colour and form. The flat cut outs are unexpected shapes, it would be so easy to have an overarching geometry, and these break up the linearity of the laminations and the flat surfaces. The construction appears to use few 90* angles. These are really exciting, they all appear poised and dynamic while the use of material opens up passages from the exterior into the heart of the sculpture, much like the metal sculptures we have discussed before.
“multiple readings of plastic/spatial/physical movements into,around and within the piece”
I have done this as well, albeit on a larger scale. Although I initially found it interesting and exciting, I eventually became irritated by the continual changing and my inability to memorise sufficient detail to retain the visual meaning as I moved around. So it became a sort of inverted goldfish bowl, where I was the goldfish wearing out a lot of shoe leather in search of some sort of resolution. I eventually started making sculpture with a single longitudinal axis and am much happier with this and can see some of this in Liquefaction V111.
I find the density of the construction, together with the physicality of the material, create a very strong and in my opinion overbearing physical presence, which asserts itself as a physical thing in space, rather than an environment which creates space. I do however like the material and have been trying to work with wood myself, so far without much success.
I think it is the material that is creating waht is for you, the ‘overbearing’ physical presence’ and it was something i didnt make clear earlier. Would you accept these sculptures more readily if they didnt have the different aspects of the plywood ie, clear lamination and differently coloured flat planes? Plywood has a stronger ‘visual’ presence than wood, the grain of wood is far more easily accepted perhaps .
Planes are very deterministic, they draw attention to their edges and the architectural spaces between planes. I seem to remember a piece of writing by Tim where he talks about transforming the material, and the great lengths we have gone to ,to do that. In this case the rigid planarity has been transformed into a fluid reality, which is also a physical state. The overbearing physicality I am referring to, is about what that physicality does to space, which in this case is to occupy space in an assertive way. In my view, the trajectory of abstract sculpture is moving from space occupying to space creating.
Planes are very deterministic, they draw attention to their edges and the architectural spaces between planes. I seem to remember a piece of writing by Tim where he talks about transforming the material, and the great lengths we have gone to, to do that. In this case, the rigid planarity has been transformed into a fluid reality, which is also a physical state. The overbearing physicality I am referring to, is about what that physicality does to space. Which in this case is to occupy space in an assertive way. In my view, the trajectory of abstract sculpture is moving from space occupying to space creating.
Funnily enough Mark – I have been thinking of adding ‘real’ wood in as well. I’ll let you know how I get on !!
Alex. – I have to say that the finish of the plywood is ‘accidental’ i.e. not purposely selected for any sort of colour cooordination..
The”unexpected shapes” are intended to provide: Direction, Sequence, Relationship with Space as occupied and displaced, and Movement.(simulated of course). I HOPE they won’t be seen simply as “shapes”.
I just couldn’t find another appropriate word, sorry. I wanted to draw attention to the material specifically because there are such differences with timber and you have used both the cut forms and the lamination lines to create and enhance the sculpture. There is a marked contrast with the flat plane and the linear aspect of the laminations. with wood grain, this would be more organic, the lamination is possibly (and to my eye) far more directional
Tim, these sculptures feel big, but it is the feel of the character that I relate to. V11 has a melting feeling with view 1. floating. 1X thrusts upwards and has a Staccato feeling
Mark – As with good music, the “feelings’ that are evoked can be quite different in different people’s mind/ear from exactly the same piece. I would hope that with this sculpture this can also be the case.
I am concerned with your remark that ” asserts itself as a physical thing…rather than be an enviironment which creates space “.
I think this could very well be to do with scale; a much larger sculpture would be easier for the mind/eye to enter into in the manner I have been claiming as necessary ?
It might also be something to do with complexity/information. Although your work is visually complex, the individual pieces do not lose their identity as pieces. My experience is that as a sculpture gets more visually complex the individual pieces lose their individual importance as pieces in favour of an increased importance of developing form, which is often indeterminate, less literal and hopefully more abstract.
I really like the constructed, freeform architectural quality of these sculptures. I feel I am able to absorb and forget the physical limits and aesthetic boundaries of plywood, as Tim suggests, when looking at ‘Liquefaction Vlll”, possibly due to the smaller elements creating more diversity and complexity, which seems to give the work a speedy movement.
Mark – I missed your earlier comment starting: “Planes are very deterministic…”
I am accepting that as a given with this material. It could well be necessary to work away from it in future.
You also say: “.they occupy space in an assertive way…”, which is again the case (?) from the givens of the material.
What I WANT, (as compared to actually achieving maybe), is for this ‘assertion’ to not only occupy space (which is inevitable), but to CREATE space plastically from the ‘movements’ and ‘intervals’ of the sequences of forms.
Imagine for a moment, if you like, the idea of taking the physical form away and looking at the sequences of spaces that would be left.as if they were ‘solid’. When making them I try to think of space in this way. This,(I hope), will be: “space creating”.
PS – I agree entirely with your comment :”the trajectory of abstract sculpture is moving from space occupying to space creating”.
Mark – I’ve been thinking further about your remarks.
“…occupying space in an assertive way…” One or two points:
The “assertiveness” you mention has a function (quite other than the fact of “occupying space”); it is intended to provide direction, rhythm, sequence and movement to the passages of which the individual pieces are part.
If I ‘neutralised’ those parts (to make them less assertive), I would be in danger of landing up with a structure rather like a tree, which has a certain amount of structural direction in its trunk and branches, but is then dissipated by the myriad sameness of the leaves which constitute its foliage. The trees which stand out as having a strong identity are the ones in which the leaves are more “assertive” as parts.”
In other words I don’t necessarily see “space creation” as being contradicted by “assertiveness” in sculptural form.
So are you saying that individual parts should retain a strong sense of identity? Referring to my previous comment above; I suggest that individual parts should lose their identity in favour of developing form, which is then more able to deal with direction, movement and rhythm in a non referential, non literal way. Whereas strong individual parts tend to repel each other leading to a kind of conflict of interests, which can be very exciting and create loads of movement and structure but ultimately is self defeating.
why would strong individual parts necessarily repel each other? rather than a conflict of interest, might they enhance other elements with additional info? where does an individual part stop/start? I am not sure how I read your comment into the images above. Are you distinguishing flat planes v the visually directional laminations?
“…individual parts should lose their identity in favour of developing form, which is then able to deal with direction, movement and rhythm in a non referential, non literal way…”
But what IS “developing form” ? Is it simply the mass of “non literal, non referential” parts (made as lacking in identity as possible) clustered together in a volume occupying space ? How do parts “lack identity” if they exist; and if they exist what are they for ? What do they do if “developing form” does it instead.?
If we take your argument to its logical conclusion, parts would simply be ‘virtual’ and be ‘made’of nothing ? and I am sure that that is not what you had in mind. It is a little bit like the John Cage idea of music without any sound.
So maybe, in the end, what we are talking about is material ? ‘Identity’ is material more than what is done with it other than ‘developing form ? Surely not ?
Developing form,is material and space working together. Parts lose their identity when they become generic.
I see what Mark is saying. I think sometimes though, that things which are complicated are too often regarded as complex. If things are not working, it may not need more things but something else done to the things that are there – the complexity is in the decision-making, so to speak. I really like the look of these, the scale is appealing. Having said, I wonder if the odd small piece might indeed turbo charge them even more? They are approximately 21/2 ft high so the parts are quite modest, so then again that may be finicky? The narrower butt edges serve this purpose but nothing on the flats. They have a generosity in the handling which appeals, too – the sanded edges seem important.
PS – This last sentence is not very clear. It should say: Is ‘”identity” simply the nature of a material rather than what is actually done with it other than “developing form” ? Surely not ?
Emyr – Re: “Complexity”. I think we would all agree that complexity in any work of art should only exist out of necessity.
Nobody serious will imagine that either simplicity or complexity, or anything in between, in themselves donate quality.to a work,
In the present pieces it is a bi-product of a conscious effort to avoid a consolidated ‘whole’ readable image, in favour of a
multi layered, multi faceted visual (mind/eye) entry into, through and around the work and its parts. In physical terms this inevitably produces a complex organisation of form.
I quite agree that simply adding”more things” rather than doing “something else to the things that are there” is a pathway to “decision making” muddle.
Incidentally Emyr – Am I right in saying (I am only a naive sculptor) that in your work as shown there is a huge difference between the drawing in the drawings and the drawing in the paintings. In the former it leads to merely graphic flatness and pattern; in the latter it actually creates space, depth and atmosphere ? You will have gathered that I find the latter far, far superior !
” Developing form is material and space working together ”
I fully agree to that (though I was unclear from your term).
The question then is HOW do material and space work together ? Why should parts “lose their identity” when they serve this purpose ? It still seems to me that you are inferring that if space is to become a plastic factor in the making of a sculpture (rather than a neutral, anonymous one), it somehow has to diminish the identity of individual material parts;(“parts lose their identity when they become generic”).
I would then posit that yes, this IS a possibility (of choice), but not necessarily a rule,.(seemingly your affirmation).
I can envisage space working very positively with material which has NOT lost its identity; being space which ITSELF has an equally strong identity (in the mind/eye of course).
Do you find this an impossibility ?.I am curious.
I do not see how space can have any sort of identity of its own other than that conferred upon it by material. I feel that pieces of material with a strong individual identity, tend to repulse space and other pieces which are not as equally strong. That said, I enjoy using that characteristic in conjunction with more generic pieces in a general mix of space and stuff.
I suppose we can argue this until the cows come home. Of course I agree that space has to be given an identity; it has none of its own..
Whether it is repulsed or not by the identity of the material parts, I suppose depends entirely on the nature of that ‘identity’. and how much it is fashioned into creating a spatial one syinonymously
As a painter I don’t feel qualified to say too much about sculpture but these have a certain quality of lightness, as in weight, they look as though they have lifted themselves from a pile of wood, up into the air to become a sculpture.
I like your observation. I think that sense of lightness is one of the characteristics of plywood, and shows how the FEEL of the sculpture coveys its meaning.
I also like this observation as it speaks directly of the visual character of these works, at least as I see them. The lightness comes perhaps partly from the relatively discreet way that the individual pieces are joined to each other to form the whole, thus suggesting the rather appealing notion of a spontaneous self-configuring of material. I’m reminded of the thrill of looking around the scrapyards and wondering if I could ever make anything as exciting as the random, purposeless clusters of off-cuts on view.
Well yes – if that is your take on them, John. Fine.
But – the real question is HOW do they “become sculpture” /
In response to your question Tim about how does it all become sculpture ?…. that is a massive question ..heres what I’m thinking at the moment…
Space of a certain indiscriminate order is around very bit of stuff one picks up. It cannot not be there
In these sculptures the fluid aspect of the material is in their edge. The flat surface is rigid. I am looking for more edge and less surface which is in these works unyielding.
So how does this unyielding material combine to make plastic and spatial sculpture? and that task is a whole lot harder for these works than the ‘card’ ones we looked at previously.
Certainly Alan Gouk’s comment …”plywood does not bend ” is even more appropriate.
Enter constructed sculpture and solely by bringing together a variety of shapes approaching each other in a precise spatial order give to themselves in that joining ,the feeling of some precise change.
In that moment the group of shapes in coming together form in that moment a new “form.” This moment is a grouping, a unifying of different shapes into a bigger shape wherein the flatness of the material is being challenged by the amalgam of flat shape beginning to create cross spatial frictions on route to the beginnings of some kind of three dimensionality.
As these groupings grow in number and the cross spatial frictions, tensions also grow in number what was indiscriminate space and random shape becomes particularised. This growing ‘whole’ takes on ever greater meaning.
So…were we in the process of witnessing the writing of a book ,we are at the chapter stage , but it has not come together yet. This proposition is ,I believe, the perfect platform for the artist to be surprised and feel free.
to do whatever…
Pausing at that point in the development of a sculpture these precise judgements, spatial three dimensional positionings, are held together and are able to be revisited, because we are subscribing, willingly or not, to something called illusion.
I say this because none of that is true …it is only because you subscribe to the notion that something that is totally static can in all of these combinations of space and material be seen as something that is sculpture which is full of energy.
But of course in the blink of an eye it can all revert back to being just material .
Yes indeed – Tony – a massive question;. Though I was actually only quoting John Pecy’s “up into the air to become sculpture”.
I will try to answer your comments paragraph by paragraph:
When I first started to use the plywood, I very quickly became aware of the role that the cut edges were performing..You say “fluid aspect” which I like; I agree that they serve as a huge animator to the “flats’, whose inclination is to be static It also provided a physical quality that the paper lacked.
Yes, indeed “plywood does not bend”.(not this type anyway) and yes indeed, it became necessary to infuse a ‘spirit’ of bending to compensate and animate the sequences of form.. And yes, joining became a critical factor also in attempting to turn the rigidity into a flexible rhythmic structure.
The “grouping of different shapes” is intended to provide clusters of material form which by way of their assembly, direction, thrust and plastic intention create in turn positive and negative spatial ‘forms’ which are intended to be ‘read’ as strongly as the material ones and in conjunction with them.
Yes,” tensions” and “frictions” are very much what the.language of the various structural parts are intended to purvey to the viewer. Any “indiscriminate space” is intended to be challenged into becoming a live one.by its relationship to the parts it is married to.
Yes, your “book” is certainly only partially mapped out. As many unsatisfactory limitations as realised ones appear in working.
So great to have these voices in the air again!
“In the blink of an eye it can all revert back to being just material “
Does this mean that abstract sculpture is essentially ephemeral?
Mark…a great question and this is probably a shit answer .
…………………maybe any difficult proposition is ephemeral whilst the person is failing to engage with what was really intended and stated.?…..
or maybe the Abstract qualities of the works is the ephemeral?
but …that same material becoming Abstract.and full of meaning .is requiring more of the viewer than that ?
For me, the main, fascinating thread of discussion swirling around Tim’s sculptures is about the relations between material and space. Alex and Emyr insightfully draw attention to how the material’s innate properties are worked upon (the colour of the plywood changes tonally as edges are cut and sanded, the play of light and shade are integral to the lightness and density of planes as they are articulated in space) and how all this in turn is defining the interrelations of space with material. It seems to me that the sculptors have quite a firm grasp of the idea of what the term ‘abstract’ actually means for their sculpture. It is something to do with this symbiotic relation between the innate properties of the materials from which the sculpture is wrought, how the materials are worked upon and transformed by the sculptor and the sense of space thus created through the act of making. Once the definitions are in place a revealing discussion has been had about the relative success of each sculpture in relation to those definitions. But the definitions are, by necessity, very narrow. This interests me because I wonder what kind of impact this work is having on a viewer who might not be so immediately involved with these issues? It seems to me that this form of sculpture has to be put into wider historical contexts. How does it fight its corner in the wider culture?
This kind of sculpture stands in stark contrast to the work running on from minimalism or the Duchampian ‘ready-made’ where the artist is building a stage set on which the viewer is asked to divise their own play. Some viewers will welcome the opportunity to, in some way, find their own meaning, or a debatable sense of agency, from the installation of juxtaposed objects that have many other potential meanings in life and in art. Others want to be wowed by the hands-on transformation and articulation of materials in space (me). I’d be fascinated to hear how the sculptors think about the notion of the viewer…
Apologies for not picking up on your question..”Where does an individual part stop/start?”
..and…your last sentence…”are you distinguishing flat plains versus the visual directional laminations ?”
Re reading that this morning…its brilliant.
The flat plane part of the ‘part’ is easier to comprehend but the ‘laminations’ which I interpreted as ‘edge’ without your observation of the inbuilt physicality of the edge in that it is not like, say, the edge of a plate of steel.
The laminations and their success or not to inform the plane and overcome its feeling opaque and non physical…so the sculptures do not lack transparency but the scale of the planes do, despite the constant turning and re orientation of those planes as you move about.
….so i am thinking…obviously there are loads of possibilities that the edge is dominant and could be given greater length thus intruding into the plane.
This is a small point .
“Yes,” tensions” and “frictions” are very much what the.language of the various structural parts are intended to purvey to the viewer. Any “indiscriminate space” is intended to be challenged into becoming a live one.by its relationship to the parts it is married to.“ This is very much what I mean when l talk about feeling and if a sculpture achieves this then it will not in my opinion revert back to material.
I am still very interested to hear what anyone thinks about Mark’s notion that the intensity of material parts (in an abstract sculpture) “tends to repulse space” and that parts ” workng with space” should become ” – “generic” – his:”Developing Form”.
My work as shown attempts to posit the opposite, i.e. the ‘intensity’ of its part forms is intended to attract and form space, in and around , through and between, in tandem. Quite obviously these two visions are contradictory.
Can anyone offer any further thoughts on this ?. Does anything similar occur in painting for examole ?
Does any sculptor, thinking similarly, encounter a parallel diversification of the choice of paths to take in terms of their working methods ?
Tony – No, it’s not a “small point” (for me), but a very important one you have pinpointed..
The (cut) edges of the parts are crucial in their hoped for role to “inform the plane and overcome it feeling opaque and non physical”. They also visibly demonstrate ‘lamination’ in their fabrication which echoes the general theme of laminated structures. Your remark that they are quite different to the edges of a plate of steel emphasises this.
As you also say “the flat plane is easier to comprehend”; which is the main reason for their ‘difficult’ role as the means of visually conveying the energy, tensions and frictions of the various structural themes that unfold and are experienced by the mind/eye. Not forgetting their equal importance in relation to spatial manipulation.
Apart from spatial considerations, I am finding the physicality of these sculptures quite exciting in an unexpected way. These edges are proper edges, not incidental to the cutting of a plane, and the relatively inert or opaque plane is a vital foil to the energy generated by the edge. The conflict of interest between these physical states generate the tensions and frictions. What this does spatially is another matter, but the physicality is very exciting and unique to this material and these pieces.
i have looked at these photos in the light of what you say and i Think you are absolutely right.
As you seem to suggest the next bit is what sort of ‘space’ is it?
Mark and Tony – There seems, then, to be a consensus that, on the one hand there is a gain (for abstract sculpture) in that even material which can seem as if: “it lifts itself into the air” (John Percy), i.e. has a feeling of lightness, can express physicality. (There was a time when this was only aimed for by heaving large hunks of steel around !).
On the other hand there is the observation that the intensity of the material (in the part) is too dominant and “tends to repulse space”; whereas the aim is to marry to it, and conduct a dialogue with it on equal terms as a plastic partner in the piece. Hilde says that “if a sculpture achieves this” it is “feeling” and “will not revert back to material” which of course would corroborate the aim.
I quote:. “the next bit is: what sort of space is it ?” and “what this does spatially is another matter”, as supporting the opposition which Mark defines as “Developing Form”,.which I am understanding as meaning material parts with far less intensity built into them, or in their nature, in order to properly define and indeed create a spatial role in the piece ?
I appreciate these conflicting views as something to be resolved.
Could it be that Plywood itself is part of the trouble ? As I have remarked before, it is an awkward and unresponsive material to work with, given its intended purposes in manufacture and its consequent rigid physical nature. Steel is a flexible paradise by comparison, a positive playground of characteristics in working.
Tony’s comment: ” there are loads of possibilities that the edge is dominant and could be given greater length thus intruding into the plane. ” is an exceedingly insightful comment which I will take full note of in future work.
“Intruding ” is exactly what those shouting planes need !
What no one has mentioned thus far re space, is colour and tone, both play a critical role I feel in the visual articulation of the ‘airways’. Perhaps this is something apparent because we are having to respond on screen. We have had many many discussions over the years with the depth in a painting and how the paint responds across the canvas. As others have said earlier, I feel the subtle changes of tone across the flat planes create something entirely separate. In Liquefaction IX where the laminations are less apparent, the change in tone to something ‘brighter’ or ‘lighter’ in the edge both delineates the change of direction in the cut forms but, more importantly perhaps, interrupt the space visually. I realise I am talking about photos, but seeing the space of the sculpture becomes more complex. I suspect some of this may be obvious if we stand with the sculpture but perhaps we (it might just be me!) may accept this as a material thing. The tonally brighter laminate edges are giving a as Tony says ‘given greater length thus intruding into the plane’. I would go further, the edges direct the plane and develop a linear reading into both the sculpture and the space
Alex – What you touch on above is very important to these works and what I am aiming for re material and space.
The photographs do kill stone dead all the subtleties of spatial entry and exit and interpenetration, that I keep harping on as an essential part of the idea, because they immediately turn material and space into a flat image. It is infuriating that this whole discussion should have taken place in front of the pieces where this would have been immediately apparent (or not). I know everyone realises that, but still it is frustrating.
In the photographs the material ‘reads’ visually; the space does not.
On the ‘colour’ question, you are absolutely right to point out the strong change that the edges display and the importance of their directional role emphasised accordingly.
I also think your last sentence is an accurate description of my intention.
Alex. I agree with your assessment of tonal changes and how they influence the sculptural structure, but you also mention colour as it is talked about in paintings as an illusion of space and depth, are you suggesting that the slight colour changes are creating a similar spatial illusion in these works?
I quite like your use of plywood and look forward to seeing how you can develop it further. Yes, steel is a flexible paradise by comparison, however I don’t know how much longer we will be able to continue using it in the light of a burgeoning climate emergency!
I fully intend continuing to battle with the plywood (the positives outweigh the negatives); with the addition of some real wood elements when plastically necessary (already begun in 2020)..
Many, many years ago, I visited the last remaining rain forest in Sri Lanka, the Sinharaja Forest, with its unique wild life and endemic species; Lo and behold, right in the middle of it, was a Canadian (donated aid) Plywood factory !! I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
Mark – Would it get nearer to “Developing Form” (for you) for the ‘flats’ to be drastically diminished , whilst retaining the strength of how the edges perform.? Thus creating far less material intensity ?
Hi Tim. Certainly if the large planes were broken down in to many smaller ones, without reducing the overall mass of the sculpture, thereby increasing the amount of edge to plane ratio, the emphasis could move toward building space within the material. However the way that the edges operate in your sculptures would change drastically in that the movement, direction and energy they currently dictate would you have to be taken up by the resulting form as it develops. My experience so far is that; with space and material taking on a closer, combined role, the overall material intensity increases.
Mark, if I understand you, breaking down the larger flat areas you think will generate space. I think that would create a confusion of articulated form which would not necessarily build space. In my opinion the changes of scale as they are currently, between the laminated and directional edges with the flat planes and the contrast between them is what is exciting. Creating forms that would be essentially square in cross section will not solve anything. With steel you are able to forge the steel across the cross section, something that both you and Tony have done. Have I misunderstood?
That is an interesting conflict of opinion.
Alex, – saying I tend to agree with you that I will be losing something aesthetically substantial if the tensions between the ‘edges’ and the ‘flats’ were reduced and minimised.
I am not quite certain what you mean by “square in cross section”.
Mark – is there not a contradiction in your saying firstly “…the emphasis could move toward building space within the material…”(by “increasing the amount of edge to plane ratio”).- and then – “space and ,material taking on a closer combined role, the overall material intensity increases” .Which, surely, is the opposite of “building space” which depends on reducing the “intensity” (your definition) ?
If my understanding of mark is correct, I thought that reducing the planes would result in a more uniform cross section, ie squarer
OK Alex – I have now got your point.
Yes, if one takes (let us say) a 4 inch by half inch piece of ply (cross section) and reduces it to 1 inch by half inch; (with a chosen length of course), one is losing a large area of ‘flat.AND cross section ‘edge’. There remains the ‘length edge’. It would seem then, that one could ‘reduce intensity’ by diminishing a part in both ‘flat’ area and end section; but thereby produce. a “confusion of articulated form” (because of a lack of “change of scale”) ?
I suppose the answer to all this is back to the drawing board,(i.e. studio) and try things out.
I can think of one drawback to smaller ‘fragmented ‘ pieces of material already, which is that not only would they be less “exciting”, but also lacking in ‘movement and direction’ as a result of their curtailed shaping.
In a sculpture which aims, as these do, to have no overall image, (the dreaded composition), the role of the sequences of parts to say everything to the mind / eye, becomes crucial.
Confusion as to what those parts ‘DO’, would not help in”creating space”.
I don’t think it is back to the drawing board, just keeping on . The cut forms are not, as I said much earlier, geometric
which I really like but is difficult to see, are all the angles from flat to edge at 90* ? Adding additional laminations contrawise, giving additional bulk and also direction will/might maintain the materiality to such an extent it will dictate the space
Alex – I think you mean the angle of the flat plane surface of a piece to the edge (made by the cutting) which is,, yes, 90 degrees.
I also think you mean adding material on to the actual cut edge itself (which is an interesting idea worth trying out).It has actually happened as few times but not generally.
But if I understand you this will “maintain the materiality” (i.e. add to it) which I think is what Mark wants to reduce ?
I am responding to John Bunker in an earlier comment on here ..his musings on “..how the sculptors think about the notion of the viewer….”
You write earlier on “..it seems the sculptors have quite a firm grasp of the idea of what the term ‘abstract’ actually means for their sculpture”….
Comparing any “firm grasp ” a painter [ an abstract painter of course ] may have on the term abstract, I think they can fish around in a far more replenishable pond.
Most painters put faith in their accumulated knowledge of other painting and with any relationship they make with other painters.You could build a big reputation with your “viewers'” based on your analysis and transference of understanding into your own efforts through say Matisse ,Cezanne or Pissarro for example
It could be that the Brancaster sculptors ,working on their new sculpture, actually benefit from not having any of these relationships.
They do rely on and trust each other though.
They have no library of visual wonderfulness in which a painter can sink into when a dark and fruitless day with no abstract possibilities comes around again !
Maybe sculptors do have to get down and close up to each others attempt ?.From the ‘whole’ thing to the precise detail, to the junctions, to the probable forms, to the forces of physics, to the colour of the planes, to the tone of the planes, to the attention of the attaching to the space in the material or made by the material and on and on and on and on…….They have no references to check out and no nice distractions from the late 19th century. They just have each others’ physical manifestations, each others visual thoughts and each other.
Seems a bit bleak. No wonder they are into scrutiny.
I’m not so sure they are looking for definitions though.
I think they are more likely hoping to discover a reason which may encourage change ? Looking for a prospect which may promote forward traction?
Maybe they just don’t think about the notion of the viewer ?. Maybe that’s a good thing.?
Maybe none of us have any real viewers? Maybe that’s a good thing ?
With this abstract sculpture maybe potential viewers are missing out ?
A glimpse into that undistracted ‘space’ of these sculptors could be just a bit groovy and rare. It could challenge the norm of a more casualist approach.
Maybe that’s a good thing too ?
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A few thoughts on your comments Anne – not in any particular order:
Sculptors make things; and like all people who make things, they tend to talk about it (its the small boy syndrome).
I agree that this can be a crashing boor for others (maybe particularly painters). There is nothing to be done about it; don’t listen.
Viewers – Sculptors , even more, much more, than painters, have a dire lack of ‘viewers’ (except each other).The whole St. M’s system tried to change all that for students; but it was a drop in the ocean. The fact is very, very few people look at sculpture seriously; those who do want it to “mean something”. which more or less leaves out abstract scu[pture.altogether.
So, yes, it is a “bit bleak”.
It is a truism that painters have their vast history of great art to look back on and be inspired by. A painter today in 2021 can talk about his/her work in relation to Cezanne or Monet or…. as if they were together in the same room. Time scarcely counts in terms of the matters under discussion and observation; and. of course, they do benefit in their work accordingly.
Sculptors, on the other hand, even though there is a vast history for them to explore (at least in their minds) have very little of immediate concern that they can look at and feel ‘at one’ with. They are isolated from the general stream of visual creativity except perhaps in sister arts like architecture and design. And we know where that confusion leads.
I think I have said this before, but it is really a matter of persuasion. Viewers are only going to take a serious look at new abstract sculpture if it persuades them to .Of course, that requires exposition on a far wider scale than at present (virtually none) and the role of critics and curators being persuaded first of all is crucial. That, at the moment, sadly, seems fairly remote. “Scrutiny” won’t do the trick, that is for the practitioners;
An ‘audience’ has to share the wavelength to be true.
Just a few points.
Thanks for pointing out how ‘ out there ‘I am.
sculpture is fantastic
abstract sculpture is going to be even more fantastic
Curating has nothing to do with the artist.
The so called ‘viewer’ is looking somewhere else.
We are very fortunate.
At this moment in time there are abstract sculptors and abstract painters rooting around with their own liberty to twist their experiences/ideas/hopes/etc etc from materials and make them into Abstract art.
We are unhampered.
Sorry ..we are not about what we SHOUD have …or what we HAVE had ….
We are about what DO have
Many thanks for your thoughts Anne,Tim (and Emyr in his chat with Saul on the painting page). I forgot that my interest in historical and social contexts means I might not see such clear distinctions between role of curator, critic/writer and artist. It’s funny, I get it in the neck from both camps. Fellow artists think I’m bonkers for expending all that energy writing about art and organising shows etc, while writers/historians can get a bit snooty because I’m stepping (usually very clumsily) on their territory. But enough about me!
So forgive me for pursuing this line of enquiry, but as I mentioned, the Brancaster crits seem to have been great for clarifying certain terms of reference which are shared by the sculptors. Tim alluded to a strong pedagogical thread that connects the sculptors via St Martin’s college. But this is just the tip of the iceberg for historical context, surely, Tim? Could someone explain to this naive painter why these particular sculptors do not have historical precedents to work from in the same way the painters are supposed to? This might help in clarifying what is ‘new’ in the new abstract sculpture too.
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John – Without entering into a major art history discussion, the short answer is that ‘Modern Sculpture’ (as it is known) has a very brief history by comparison with ‘Modern Painting’..
Again, without dredging up the endless theories as to when “Modern Art’ began; (you know: “was Courbet ‘modern’? and so on); it is pretty clear that ‘Modern Sculpture’ can only really be credited back to the latter half of XIXth C. France, Rodin, Degas, ,et al. and even then remains figurative in essence until the early XXth..
More importantly even than chronology is the lamentable fact that very little of it (compared to painting) was sufficiently impressive in quality to provide models for others to build on..
Today’s (serious) sculptors do have a history, but a comparatively modest one to look to.
New’, surely, is only really what it says when it applies to the thinking underlying the work ?
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I am most likely wrong here, but why is it that contemporary abstract painting, painting which seeks to be free of reference to the figurative world of which we inhabit, continues to defer to and is greatly influenced by figurative “modern” paintings of the recent past. And, conversely, it seems that contemporary modern sculpture ignores figurative abstract work from a time long before Rodin, eg the venus of tan tan. Therefore my thoughts led me to consider that modern sculpture’s history isn’t that brief and perhaps begins in the wrong starting place and can be just as comparative as abstract painting’s history? What connects the Venus of tan tan to Rodin to Brancusi to Matisse’s backs to Tim Scott?
To try to answer your question on….. why sculptors…………
It’s that by now familiar phrase ‘ plastic and spatial three dimensionality ‘ ? [ it’s only a phrase…and I am as sick as anyone else at hearing it ] …but…the news from the front is that it will be very different to the three dimensionality we are stuck with and are borrowing from other 3D art forms.
We can’t wrap this up in a nice little parcel . It is, as it was when it was first discussed, a difficult course to take, possibly because it is not something in its own right, but a sort of hyper blend of all the other elements of abstract sculpture.
What I think is driving this on , is that whilst sculpture continues to borrow a three dimensionality from the object world, it won’t , can’t ,be thought of as being abstract?
If that is right it might account for why it is taking so long to achieve.
It is going to require new thinking on all fronts, which is why now and then , we hear that hoary ambition of originality.
When it does emerge, and if anybody notices , will the problem be solved?……….
So in the light of that …we are good at sharing and agreeing on the latest theories around the elements of sculpture….it’s easy to agree to something that we know will have to change.
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Painting has been able to deal with continuity of materials to a greater extent than sculptors. While the technology has improved immeasurably in paint, painters are still using colour on a flat plane. I dont want to underestimate what they achieve, but even acrylics have been about for a while now. The twentieth century saw an explosion in new materials and techniques, welding, plastics, glues; prior to this much sculpture was confined to natural materials , stone and wood, with bronze. Sculptors have spent a great deal of the last century exploring the potential for all these new materials and continue into the 21st with digital possibilities. Without making any quality comparisons between the sculptors and their work, perhaps the problem sculptors have had is the explosion in the new language that all these new potential materials and techniques have offered.
“….is that whilst sculpture continues to borrow a three dimensionality from the object world, it won’t, can’t be thought of as being abstract…”
If it is meant by “object world” everything that is made physically (so excluding Nature), their three dimensionality serves a purpose.(plastically, spatially and in many other ways)
This purpose is not similar in any way to the purpose of the three dimensionality of sculpture, or its plastic and spatial aims. But this historical purpose (and aims) are also being challenged.as being inadequate. This challenge,if and when it succeeds is what we are calling abstract.
Tim, how significant is the thickness and regularity of the pieces? Their sculptural functionality is determined by their differences of shape, positional attitude and the resultant inter-relational ‘factness’. The shapes have variety in width, curvature and length, all of which establishes scale, too. Would using a different degree of thickness (another kind of ply?) compromise their expressive arc, so to speak, and take them into a way of working which compelled overly considered or placed forms (flower arranging etc)? Do you see a pictorialism resulting in this? I understand the ambition to avoid such a state and to create a fluid ever-mobile spatial expressiveness, however, in light of such an ambition does this mean there must be a systematic use of materials to get there?
Emyr – That is a very good question. I did actually vary the thicknesses of the ply quite considerably in older ply works. I even contemplated going up to to or three inches thick. However, the linear edges (remarked on by several commentators) seemed to get disrupted as a consequence.
the “… differences of shape…” are intended to guide the mind/eye through and across the sequences of parts, their directions, junctions in, and adjoining the space through which they travel. Hopefully, they are not just ‘shapes’.
“…compromise their expressive arc…” is an excellent phrase which exactly describes what I felt.
If ‘pictorialism’, i.e. a one dimensional planar vision of the whole, starts to creep in (compromising the “…ambition to avoid such a state…” ) I can only hope that the spatial three dimensionality of the work will disabuse the mind/eye of any such visual temptation. As I have said somewhere before, the ‘mess’ of the whole is intended to force the mind/eye into, through and around the sequences of parts.
By “…a systematic use of materials…” I assume you mean sticking to one, or a limited number ? I can only say that that should be dictated by sculptural necessity rather than any other sort of necessity.
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