Brancaster Chronicle No. 84: Anthony Smart Sculptures

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.1, H65cm (view 1, mild steel: images move anti clockwise)

 

Artist’s Statement

Looking at these pieces now they have been brought together, and comparing them with my first Brancaster, I see that though the early work establishes a ‘continuum’ a ‘part to part’, ‘part to whole’ still exists .What has gone from them is the ‘dominant’ part, the ‘large part ‘.

What I hope is establishing in these four sculptures [ The Stella Series ] , is a range of movement and a greater engagement with space, trying to get the shape of the material to be three dimensional and join all together in a three dimensional way , but, with further looking, promote groups that come together and open back out.

This is a movement I want.

But also, the movement of stretching out into space and relaxing again [ another kind of movement ]. Call it detail, complexity, richness.

We are all at it , in our own way.

It will not come as a surprise to anyone that imbibing a sculpture with some sort of detail/information, anything that can take hold of the eye and mind, makes for a possible human connection. A way in. This pursuit, accompanying Art in general, is thousands of years old. This particularising of space and material is surprisingly, not that old. What has probably held it up as a development for abstract sculpture has been the ‘object’ .

An abstract three dimensional sculpture should have no responsibilities other than the exploration of three dimensions for just its own sake!

 

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.1, H65cm (view 2, mild steel)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.1, H65cm (view 3, mild steel)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.1, H65cm (view 4, mild steel)

 

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.2, H73cm (view 1, mild steel: images move anti clockwise)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.2, H73cm (view 2, mild steel)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.2, H73cm (view 3, mild steel)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.2, H73cm (view 4, mild steel)

 

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.3, H71cm (view 1, mild steel: images move anti clockwise)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.3, H73cm (view 2, mild steel)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.3, H73cm (view 3, mild steel)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.3, H73cm (view 4, mild steel)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.3, H73cm (view 5, mild steel)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.3, H73cm (view 6, mild steel)

 

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.4, H88cm (view 1, mild steel: images move clockwise)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.4, H88cm (view 2, mild steel)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.4, H88cm (view 3, mild steel)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.4, H88cm (view 4, mild steel)

The Stella Series 2020-2021 No.4, H88cm (view 5, mild steel)

49 comments
  1. noelajamesbewry said:

    I like these Tony, they are amazing, I will carry on looking and comment later!

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  2. The density of space seems to have a greater compression to it due to the increased materiality as you move through the sequence from 1-4. Is this decision something that seeks to make the space work harder? The steel, also has more of a uniform size of pieces and is more busy. I’m enjoying the crackle-like energy in them which increases with the sequence, too. What is noticeable is the difference between “space” and “gap”; the twisting and writhing of the steel is so active that space is generated through this physicality as you absorb the palpability of it all, rather than being poised in the air. There is massing and relenting in an ebb and flow manner but the movement is far more eccentric than such linear surging.

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  3. smart said:

    From Tony

    Thank you Noela…
    I said to Anne this morning “I can’t wait to see how Noela has moved on “…as ever you have done so…..
    Like you , I too need time to look more ..and think….they look so good and they are different…

    Emyr…..
    If there is an idea here, across all of them, it has been ,and is of making them more credible, more believable.
    Three dimensions, space , movement etc are ‘All the balls…’ and they must be together, a blend !
    Transparency, which is part of the blend, has been sacrificed as everything else has increased in No 3 and No 4, and that is a worry.
    I like your distinction between space and gap. Gap is a kind of space which could be part of the sculpture, or thought of more like air, that is outside. Or, it is perhaps part of transparency, making more available to sight..
    But the material , its suppleness etc. ,is really all there is as it is what makes for everything else !

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    • An increased activeness in the handling is what I am seeing and this creates a greater cause and effect – more decisions, more possibilities, more everything as you say. A caveat: do you see the decisions becoming “optimised” in some way – the point about their respective sizes? Pieces are relatively similar in size throughout the works and it seems you are upping the ante on the multitudiness interactions of twisting steel which now attempt to do a heck of a lot (more) whereas before the works were more pared down with heavier pieces with more air around them. As to gaps, I am not quite sure: I would look at a gap more as a dead space, whereas active space itself can be “different” in expression, determined through the varying (and imaginative) manipulations of the steel – the onus is on yourself to get the charge into all those different ways of handling… this could be simple issue of semantics, though.

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  4. tim scott said:

    Tony – Originality in art is marked by the sensation of the first seeing being strange and difficult; it defies the familiar.
    Your new sculptures certainly enter this category of unfamiliarity. “Is this really sculpture ?”

    My initial take on them is that if sculpture is going to simulate ‘cloud’ in attempting to define a concept of space and three dimensional form interacting in a new way;( which, of course, is a great aim), rather than staying with a more familiar ‘thingness’, which is, in itself, your foundation stone, then there is the danger of becoming nebulous and anti physical in its visual projection; as ‘cloudness’ would tend to emphasise and indeed, epitomise.
    A sculpture that is anti physical is a contradiction in terms; sculpture’s purpose being to represent simulated notions of human concepts of physicality. The increasing intensity of your use of the material (fragmented steel) from numbers 1 to 4, thus avoiding any tendency to become ‘snowflakes’, shows an awareness of this. I agree with Emyr’s comments above concerning ‘space and gap’ and as he says: ” … the multitudinous interactions of twisting steel which now attempt to do a heck of a lot more…” I too see an increasing physical/spatial duet.
    History has shown that any attempt by sculpture to emulate the illusionistic abilities of painting’s representations of the world, ends in disaster. The idea automatically negates the fundamental asset of sculpture, which is its palpable ability to create a structural alternative to literal reality (pace: Rosso v Rodin).
    However forceful the attempt to create an integrated integral relationship between space and physical form, plastically, it will never parallel that of the illusionism of painting; it can only provide an alternative. Sculpture is totally dependent on its success, or otherwise, at physically building a structure which contains and states visually the facts of real forces: pushing, pulling, stretching, twisting, falling, etc.; and, like it or not, that requires significant plastic attention to gravity, pressure, grounding, stability, collapse and so on.
    A ‘nebulous’ structure of .’even’ statements throughout – ‘cloudness’, tends to counter that.’building’.effort, I would suggest as something to be addressed as a bi-product of the direction your work is expanding into ?

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  5. noelajamesbewry said:

    I think I perhaps disagree with Tim’s feelings about Tony’s sculptures, (I hope I haven’t misunderstood him). I am really enjoying the crackling, shimmering, light and air in these works. They feel dense and intense as well as show a spacial weightlessness, These sculptures do feel like an ‘exploration of three dimensions’ in a very specific way and demonstrate virtuosity by completely transforming steel into something that feels like atmosphere but is not in any way lacking physicality.

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  6. The steel is highly active at ever smaller levels of engagement and builds into shifting masses. This shifting results in a “murmuration” of steel. There’s an in and out movement in the sense of scale which has a consistency akin to an over-allness in painting though I don’t see these through that lens, necessarily. I can see how the loss of “thorough-ness” changes things as the meaning of the work must be held more as you move around it. To accomplish this you are increasing the activity of the steel so as to avoid the gap and make it more believable in its illusions – the performance must keep the energy up throughout. Question: Are you making rules which cannot be broken?

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  7. Mark Skilton said:

    We have to be aware that we are not looking at sculptures here but photographs, with all of their distorting illusion. I have been looking at these for quite some time, trying to get the measure of them without much success. The photographs tend to focus on the material, over emphasising its presence. It is how the material creates space that is important. (Is it even possible to photograph space?) I have found that it is the material that creates space , and the space determines where the material must go. If we were in front of the sculptures, all of this would be apparent and we could enjoy flowing through the space and along the material. The problem is as soon as you step back to the position needed to take a photograph, all of that beautiful fluidity and structural complexity decoheres into a cloud/bush or cluster. this brings me to the next point which is clarity.
    WE emphasise visual complexity to create the rich, fluid environment within which, full spatial, three dimensionality can operate. Only by using structural/visual complexity can we create the rich spatial/material experience in these sculptures. Clarity of the whole has been hard to achieve however. In the past the clarity of a sculpture was invested in the material as image/ object etc. With these sculptures the clarity is in the space. personally, I think that space itself can provide clarity by guiding the material structure.
    In the past the objectness of sculpture provided 100% clarity by representation,by making arrangements of literal objects and by metaphorical association with known concepts. Abstract sculpture has chucked all that and these sculptures are nothing if not abstract.

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  8. tim scott said:

    Noela – It is not a question of enjoying, but the level at which you enjoy.
    Emyr – No, not rules; just observation.
    Mark – I have repeated endlessly that photographs kill sculpture, largely by turning them into images
    My view is that the aims of the work will engender complexity or any other form of making.
    Abstract is not a method; it is a result.

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  9. harleysculpture said:

    These sculptures do not sit still, there is nothing static about them. The highly complex ‘outlines’ gather space and articulate this throughout the whole sculpture, it is a whirl of activity and they quiver with excitement. The variation in density between different groupings adds to this, even dense areas do not stop. The material is wide awake and raring to go!

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    • I agree with you Alex, these works are not static, they do not sit still.
      I had quite a profound experience the first time I was in the presence of Tony’s sculptures. One of them suddenly, spontaneously, expanded and then contracted in front of me. I can vividly recall it. It was real and it shocked me as well. The reaction seemed to contain time; simultaneously endless and of a millisecond.
      I often ask myself ….What was that!

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  10. smart said:

    From Tony..

    To All
    The idea that suddenly photos don’t yield the required information could be interpreted in a variety of ways.
    But, the one in my opinion which is the most likely, is that the photograph can’t cope with some of the new sculpture…j.
    Surely that is a positive.. we should be pleased.
    On the subject of physicality and material, they are inextricably linked.
    The wonderful flowing debates in Tim’s and Alex’s Chronicles on the material told us much that we already know …the bigger question is what we do not know….and can we…should we try to break the status quo ?
    Noela says out of the blue about my sculpture,…… “…and demonstrate virtuosity by completely transforming steel into something that feels like atmosphere but is not in any way lacking physicality ”
    For me that is a wonderful thought .
    Imaginative thinking.

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    • harleysculpture said:

      sometimes the photo will throw up an image unseen in the flesh so to speak and as such become a possibly useful adjunct. You are right though, these photos are not doing them justice and I look forward to seeing them when we can.

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  11. Yes, not “rules” maybe habits? Tony is moving the steel about in as close a way to, say, a pencil drawing as can be; the welds becoming the approximations of the stress points of dragged graphite, rapid and charged; it’s heady stuff and of course the anaesthetic of the screen is a numbing shame. The decision-making is more and more in the moment, a total counterpoint to a place and ponder approach- really full on. Considering this zone of working my line of thought was not ,is it compromising anything or coming up short in anyway?, as they look terrific, rather is this flow compelling decisions of size to become very similar?: stick, twist, weigh up, react, check, move, cut, grab, stick, twist, turn and so on. He seems to be speeding up and just making, throwing the stuff together. As he has so much visual and muscle memory to call upon he can do this with a measured abandon and the work is as Alex puts it wide awake and raring to go. The work takes on such a life of its own and you can imaging very little coming up for air lest that drops you on the shores of ‘Ponderland’. I’m just musing on the notion of stepping out of this zone and challenging it in someway. Is there a danger in going with the (as I perceive it) flow? Do they start and end in ways that MUST happen? The missing ingredient is that in the flesh encounter which can nullify any such reservations, granted. I think it’s important to ask the question, though. Is there something else, something even more extraordinary, available?

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  12. tim scott said:

    Emyr – “…rather is this line of flow compelling decisions to become rather similar ?: stick, twist, weigh up, react, check, move, cut, grab, stick, twist, turn and so on…”

    If one (metaphorically) voyages round this sculpture, and with the the mind /eye travels around, into and through the parts at any point, the aesthetic experience is going to be somewhat similar; repetitive, almost routine. Ultimately, this is going to lead to a ‘ballooning’ of the whole into what I called above “cloudness”, a mass lacking the physical statements of structural forces, despite the strong physicality of the fragmented steel parts, which are dynamic and which ‘work’..

    You once spoke, memorably, Tony, of “pressure”; a description of exactly the sort of physical force that a sculptural structure involves. Pressure, (hopefully involving space too, not gaps), which governs the movements and directions of where, and what for, all those parts are heading ?
    Multiplication only becomes ‘pressure’ if it is essential. What is essential can only be determined by a structural necessity as well as a visual one.

    Returning to that word illusion (as in painting). Sculpture is obliged, by its fundamental nature to deal with ‘reality’; the reality of material and its workings; the reality of real physical forces being exploited and contained expressively; the reality of being in the world (with us) not just commenting on it; a reality utterly distinct from that of painting’s world of distancing and ‘suggestion’.

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    • Tim, this is a passionate and reasoned articulation of what sculpture is, however you say this is unlike painting which is devoid of such concerns and deals with “distancing and suggestion”… A penguin is a bird, birds fly…penguins fly. Your conclusion is logical but not necessarily true. Any illusion of depth in a painting can be systematically suggested and you are inferring that is the territory for painting. I can point you to my first article for abstract critical called “closeness” which explains it further – thinking moves on but the premise holds. (there’s link on my own website, as that site no longer exists, sadly).
      As a painter, I am not interested in suggesting anything either through the illusion of depth or the allusion of narrative; I leave that to film makers and writers – they are great at it. I also deal with reality…that of paint. Indeed, I am putting as much pressure on this reality as I can, Colour is a force and not a decorative element, as Matisse first said (though is ignored more often than not). I enjoy seeing Tony’s work because I feel an instant accord with what he is doing in terms of handling his material.  I am fascinated also with your work, the ply spilling around like a pack of cards being shuffled by a card sharp. There are forces, stresses, tensions and movement – created by the means at your disposal. Tony is bending and twisting steel which is in itself an act of physical torsion. We’re all dealing with these pressures and movements in our own ways.
      There are some huge questions of what the management of time means for painting and sculpture, too; sculpture time is different to painting time though each hinges upon movement – actual or induced. Then there’s perception and memory. All of this points to reality. It’s all about the “mechanics of fact”.

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  13. smart said:

    From Tony

    Tim
    Thank you for your comments.
    Your ‘cloud’ idea I like very much….in fact it’s very good.
    Clouds are very difficult to grasp and understand. They move in many different ways, some of themselves, and others in response to surrounding circumstances. They always challenge what one thinks is real …very inspiring.
    This raises the question whether one can really enjoy something and yet never understand it. And there is the rub ! Because for all that clouds are very familiar, and despite their amazing mood changes they are deemed friendly.

    So you say all of the pieces of steel are fragmented and the same size , I take it that is not good for you ?
    Could that not be deliberate ? To play down some of the variables with material, whilst emphasising others ,is surely about choices ?
    In these sculptures of mine it is what the material does collectively that is important ,and that it is from these small pieces that the particular three dimensionality arises and develops outwards into a larger three dimensionality, taking on more and more in that building. And in that building is a form of movement. [I hope you can see why I do not think in parts or even the whole.]
    I do not want the material to have a too specific outline shape, I want any manipulation of the material to create the ‘illusion’ of movement whilst being, in fact, static.

    And, no, not painting – Abstract Sculpture.

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    • Although I can see the reference to cloud or atmosphere as a state of illusion – illusion being the summative believable state of Art, I am not looking at it in this way. The challenge for such an open sculpture as this is how Tony maintains the meaning of the sculpture throughout – both around and through. Such a state of openness is fraught with difficulty as the wonderfully worked masses each in their own locale have a reasoned ‘fact-ness’ – an expressive justification for being there, individual piece to piece accumulations made as the work takes shape. As there are so many such masses- the aim is not to have any break between them so the work has a flow of reality to it – a wholeness. There will be inevitable collisions whilst creating such a multitudinous reality-shifting space, unforeseen interactions in one’s field of vision. I can appreciate the need to avoid larger pieces. If something is blocking out the regarding of the whole is this a problem? The work will -ideally- hold the attention and engagement in the encounter and perception is in large part based upon memory – holding that whilst apprehending something new. There is a duality between the concreteness of the work and then the abstractness of the experience – unfettered by any tug on ones senses to look for something associative, so for me the cloud would constitute this tug…not needed.

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      • smart said:

        From Tony

        Emyr
        That you feel the sculptures to be open comes as a relief
        There is an obvious change after No1/No2 to No3/No4. The greater density that resulted from wanting more from the material threatened the openness that you speak of. The dialogue between 1/2/3 and then 1/2/3/4 led to the first two being very critical of 3 and 4. The case for more openness being made was strong. What was good was being forced to change the steel to make for a more capable balance , more expression between steel and space. With the ‘lump’ still in memory, gaps appeared introducing a calmer space ,opening the density and therefore opening the lump out.
        It seems obvious now, but getting it to look right becomes an obsession.
        All the time the other option that kept appearing was the ‘hole’. Difficult to keep the surrounding material [ not what you want at all ] real !
        Mark says that the ‘space’ tells you where to put the material, I agree with that and it also tells you what the material should be doing.
        Another big observation you make is in picking up on the speed of working. In a change from recent years the sculptures were put up and taken apart many times which allowed for the three dimensionality for the material being re-positioned and re-tuned. Space therefore, and again I like how Mark talks about it, has a terrific role to play in this ‘making it real’ thing.
        As Tim once said about something else, “It’s great when somebody gets it” and your insights and the way you illustrate them . I’m thinking of your passages about the pencil and the murmuration in your recent comments.

        I don’t want this stop!!! ……. We need you , and everyone else to keep on writing about Abstract Sculpture !!…..[…..and Abstract Painting !! ]

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      • That’s kind of you!
        Looking again at number 4 I am struck now by how marvellous the density of handling becomes. This creates different experiences of space (surely?) to the more open sections. There is an exciting change of pace so the similarities of strip are utilised to compel a haptic and chaotic engagement with the material. Can this be amplified further? Movement could become really wild and unpredictable. Is there still a containment happening – eventually – as you take it all in? The challenge being any jolting surge out, over or onto the horizontal (for one example) could negate itself as an over dramatic move which knocks the work back into object-ness.. there’s a fine line between confidence and bravado. It would be intriguing to see how elastic that line is.

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  14. tim scott said:

    Factual Correction:

    Tony – I did not say that your fragmented steel pieces were: “…and the same size…”
    In fact,, I repeat: “…the strong physicality of the fragmented steel parts, which are dynamic and which ‘work’…”

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  15. smart said:

    From Tony

    Tim…..I apologise
    ..I .misunderstood….’….the aesthetic experience is going to be somewhat similar, repetitive, almost routine.”

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  16. tim scott said:

    Tony – Yes, but I went on to qualify that by inferring:that that could happen unless “… pressure (your term) which governs the movements and directions of where and what for all those parts are heading …” is built in structurally..

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  17. tim scott said:

    Further to that:
    Your aesthetic appreciation of ‘cloudness’ can, obviously, be shared by most people. This appreciation is, however, totally visual; which, no doubt, is why Constable loved it so much, not to speak of Turner too.
    Sculptors, however, cannot afford to rely entirely on the visual, since that dependency would result in the plastic disintegration (of their work); and become merely illustration.
    For better or for worse, sculptors are tied to the need for a structural infusion into their constructions; the integration of a perception of real physical forces plastically; or face the physical/visual consequences of insubstantial and undirected form.

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  18. noelajamesbewry said:

    Tim I was wondering if you think abstract painters can tolerate allusions to nature etc. more, without any disintegration of their work.
    Doesn’t sculpture always have a ‘structural infusion’ of some kind and can it not have a variety of physical forces that can sometimes have a ‘cloudiness’ ?

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  19. tim scott said:

    Noela – Three very interesting questions :

    1. I am not a painter, and would not pretend to be anything but a devotee of great painting. I therefore speak entirely as an ‘outside’ observer. I think I am right in saying that all painting is illusion of one sort or another; and therefore references to nature are bound to occur either deliberately or not.
    I would hazard a guess that it is far easier for a painter (abstract) to ‘get away’ with “allusions to nature” and remain consistent to the intention of the work “without disintegration”.Many people have called into question whether it is even possible to paint without allusion to nature in some form because of its illusory foundation.
    Sculpture, even though it too can carry a great deal of illusion, is fundamentally tied to being ‘real’; The moment that sculptural reality begins to be confused with real reality, or confuses itself; problems of recognition start to set in. We all know the horrors of imitative sculpture which strives to ‘be at one’ with real reality. ‘Abstract’ sculpture, purporting to shun any reference to nature, falls back on trying to imitate other art forms to escape this conundrum.

    2….No, unfortunately in my opinion, a great deal of sculpture does not recognisably have a ‘structural infusion’. Its forms are weak and limpid from insufficient awareness and understanding of the basis that all form has in its physical derivation from the actions of structural forces.. Even biological forms have a structure as scientists tell us. Sculptural form is static and only believable through an infused liveness and strength.. which can only come from the above mentioned awareness.

    3. It is within the realms of possibility, I suppose, that those physical forces that create form, could be induced to produce an authentic ‘cloud form, thus reading visually as ‘cloudness’ (not cloudiness). However, the idea seems to me to be fraught with contradiction since the very essence of ‘cloudness’ as observed inspirationally is purely visual and amorphous,and can only remain in the mind/eye as an ‘idea’, not a model for making.

    I would very much like to hear other’s views on these same questions.

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  20. Mark Skilton said:

    All of this talk of cloudness and murmuration is just misleading and unnecessary. These descriptions were cited in good faith by people who are trying to come to terms with something that is unfamiliar, with the aim of trying to rationalise and recognise something that is known. To start to apply the meaning of words like cloud and murmuration to these sculptures is just nuts, in that it predetermines the intention of the work by reference to words that are completely inadequate. this is one of the problems with trying to write about something that is visual and inherently beyond words.
    These sculptures are not clouds, nor are they cloudy. They are fluid and indeterminate so that their real physical structure is not immediately apparent. BUt structure there is in spades; they stand firmly and assuredly; the structure emerging from the fluid and mobile working of the material.
    Please lets talk about the sculpture without getting hung up on the words that people use in their efforts to comprehend the abstract.

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    • noelajamesbewry said:

      After reading this I feel a little intimidated about writing and using the ‘wrong’ kind of words, but hey ho. The thing is, these sculptures do not feel as ‘fluid’ in the noun sense as some of Tony’s works, ‘murmuration’ seems to capture the sense of a moving wholeness structured by a myriad of small elements very well, to my mind. They are fluid in the adjectival or adverbial sense though. I don’t think the words are used to predetermine the intention of the work, they are a personal response, surely?
      Can we not broaden the vocabulary when talking about abstract sculpture/painting?

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      • smart said:

        Hi Noela
        I know what you mean about feeling intimidated
        Me too…. worried..stupid..insecure..panicky..and in need of a glass of red..
        It is far more important to keep the conversations going however tough.
        We should not think that others responses are in anyway judgemental [ and i do not think they are here ]
        I have found though its a great feeling when you have spent time looking and considering someone else’s achievements and constructing a response. …and…..when you press “post comment” it’s fab Adjectives ,adverbs or nouns ,as long as they are yours they will be welcome.,and worth as much to yourself as to the recipient !
        Broadening the vocabulary when talking about abstract sculpture/painting is a job for the intellectual linguists .. The experimental way we are MAKING abstract sculpture/painting and changing descriptions and possibly theories is our job….and that is happening

        Just say what you think or feel

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      • smart said:

        Noela

        Last comment was from me !
        Anne…ha

        Liked by 1 person

    • harleysculpture said:

      writing about sculpture is tough and we are all finding our way here. The use of words such as murmuration or atmospheric may not work for all of us. If we were together we might be able to gloss over this. I am finding the descriptions from everyone really helpful, the comparative descriptions help me see work in a different way and help me understand how others are reading the work/s, whether or not I agree. we can and should be challenging the thinking, both ours and hopefully that of others, this is the forum for that.

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  21. tim scott said:

    “…this i s one of the problems with trying to write about something that is visual and inherently beyond words…”

    Agreed, So let’s stop writing.

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  22. smart said:

    From Tony

    Emyr …interesting thoughts!
    When in the making of a sculpture would an underlying desire to spill out on to the horizontal and extend itself out?
    How far can you stretch it ?
    If one was building a house, the footprint would be pegged out and up would go the building, whether it would ever fulfil the specific needs of anyone. Only with self-build might you get what you want. Abstract sculpture must be more self-build.Make it up as you go along !
    How far it extends, stretches is driven by the material needing more room, but the more you put in , unless it is on the floor or the top, the bulk of that extension will be blocking that which is now in front of or behind.
    This would of course be easier if the sculpture was relational ,as the material in its ‘unit group’ defines itself as you are taken from one unit to another, and the meaning of this extension is both knowing and anticipating the whole. Variety is easily achieved by changing the shapes and sizes of the units. More difficult to change the meaning but at the end of the day it is the continuity throughout that activates and holds the space. So.. yes it is an exciting prospect and made more difficult/interesting by being non-relational.Meaning, invested in the material is I think one way. Shape [generic ] variety [without purpose /meaning ] the list of what not to do is more known.

    To turn your question around on to you.Why when you look at these sculptures do you want to spread them out somehow ?

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    • I am comfortable with my use of the word murmuration (not as an allusion to any look of birds per se but as a way (okay, with poetic licence) of describing the fluidly dynamic micro to macro shifts in form. As to cloud (not my word), without becoming pedantic, that has more of a nebulous sense of object-hood about it rather than the inherent movement or rather the non-stasis of this work. I share Mark’s exasperation, nevertheless, but if the requirement herewith is to respond in typed words to photographic images on screen, then, as a participant I am trying my best to generate as much probity and engagement (through these limited means) as these works deserve. I am not trying to describe what abstract is, either.

      Tony, I ask about larger pieces as I am wondering whether the relatively similar sized individual pieces create a containment from a certain distance? At some point the sculpture “starts”. That choice is conditioned by your decisions if not dictated by them. These works have an intimacy to their size which invites a closer engagement and scrutiny. I am only wondering as the shifting masses and spaces have a fluidity (let’s assume confidently that they do) which becomes the ‘optimum’ state for how the material engages the space. A fluid state can also be second-guessing what continuity truly is in reality. Indeed, streamlining is something to avoid and that’s inherently fluid. Your work is built upon contradictions, changes and the ever-more mutable to-ing and fro-ing of working in the moment. Ultimately you are shaping an experience of time. Is that something to consider as a supra state to issues of structure and the perception of a hierarchy of sculptural integrity? You want the work to be good and good means…….?.Only the work can fill that gap, not my words or anyone else’s. There is always a “something else”. I have no idea what that may be but the fact that I can wonder about it makes me think it exists. We all look forwards in our work and once you get it, run with it, celebrate it…then break it, so to speak.

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      • Mark Skilton said:

        Emyr. “at some point the sculpture starts”. By extension this implies that the sculpture in question exists in two independent states, one where you are close enough to engage with its internal space and movement, and one further away where it collapses back minto being an object ,dominated by the literalness of its material. is this a problem or an opportunity? or both?

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      • Probably both as its impossible not to be. Is this an opportunity? Probably, yes, as the work hinges upon redefining itself continually or rather it reasserts its fully grasped character continually, in different ways. Good question Mark. One which I wrestle with in painting. I can’t give any definitive answer.

        I was in the National Gallery pre-lockdown and squinted at a pair of small paintings some 50ft away. I asked myself: “are those by Delacroix?” – I was pleased to find out they were. In painting I am interested in a ‘field of engagement” rather than suggesting internal fictive depths – colour will seem to move , recede or pulse forwards, inherently, relative to its hue and how that interacts with others.

        I can see how Tony is activating the work at the periphery and there is little if any reaching for the space around the extremes which I have perhaps noted before in previous works (impossible to conclude this really, due to the lack of a proper physical engagement). When the object-ness dominates the state of the sculpture at an engagement point, perhaps is a tipping point…..where this starts, goodness knows. This could lead down a rabbit hole. I only raised it as a thought related to containment. As the pieces are relatively similar in size the detail this creates has a regularity (of pace?) – again , maybe. Such a regularity could give them a feeling of containment. They seem to hum along and maybe there could be more shouts and whispers. As Noela says – tough describing the visual, sorry.

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  23. Hilde Skilton said:

    Wow Tony…a tour de force! If l were stood in front of these sculptures, l imagine l would not even attempt to make sense of the structure as a whole, but l would be engaged with the ongoing movement! The energy is palpable ; more gentle in 1 and quite forceful in 3.

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  24. harleysculpture said:

    I am not sure that I know where the periphery is, Emyr! I think , as Mark points out, there are two -or more- independent states. A sculptural containment shuts out the ‘fizz’ on the outer edges, these all engage from without and I suggest that this drawing in of the space will be apparent from quite a distance. It is an interesting point. Making a shift to the horizontal will give a fascinating insight into the nature of the material and the change in the relationships across the sculpture. The additional pressures of gravity and weight alongside a necessarily (?) less dense construction will be visually profound.

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  25. Patrick Jones said:

    Delighted the Brancasters are going strong.Im having to do the Abstract Art Class on Zoom,once a week.even to L.A.in the middle of the night.The lack of physical experience was a real problem initially.Having to relate to screen images,lost me several engaged artists.However as the smaller group has progressed ,the dialogue has become much more interesting and intense.Nobody is self promoting ,but really trying to understand other artists journey.The complexity of the language ,and thought processes has been gob smacking at times.Occasionally the discussion transcends time,place and personnel,to attain a universal quality of engagement.No art-speak or conceptual bull crap,just trying to put words/concepts to experience.KEEP GOING .what you are doing is extraordinary and essential.Try new people as well.Im having to move studio and hundreds of works ,so will be a while before I can engage ,Best Wishes Patrick Jones

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  26. Further to the issue of object-ness: paintings and sculptures can at first, of course, be considered as objects. They remain so, though, when there is a lack of engaging and active looking induced by the work. I wonder if a work simply rooted in its own context becomes such an object. I have found when overworking a painting it ends up feeling like I am making an object – a sort of pleasing waste of time. Also if you think about context it could be seen to be a fancy way of saying memory. Piecing together the ancestry of the work in ways that define it. This work resists that definition. Tony is trying to create a sculpture – it seems to me- that immediately reveals its entire character straight up front; it’s open and can be held in the eye as a complete work. Further engagement with it doesn’t mean it is seeking to redefine itself, rather it ,as I said last time, reasserts what is already grasped in ever changing ways. This ups the level of engagement and compels a forgetting of context, or memories of other artworks – what relates to this anyway? People will seek to contextualise maybe more as a defence mechanism when you just have to get into the looking of the work and go with that and that alone. Just hold that thought and you can see what is surely the best kind of work to want to make (all the more frustrating at only seeing images). Of course it is important to interrogate but the lesson for me is to get into your work and forget your context and your memories. What is really happening in front of your eyes. One reason I enjoy Brancaster is not the chance to show work but to enagage with diverse work and throw these ideations back onto myself – it’s a bit like an MOT for your art.

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  27. Hilde Skilton said:

    Hi Tony…there is a change in the making of the first two sculptures and the last two…l have said before how l am aware of the different energy. Question to you is….how did this change and impact on your decision making when it came to the space in the sculptures? No 1 and 2 are specific and grab the air as they move along….no 3 and 4 seem to be more about the mass of material in space, clumping and releasing the material into space. Sorry about this oddly worded thought/ question! Perhaps this has been answered in the great extensive dialogue so far …could you say more!

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  28. smart said:

    Hilde
    Thanks for a great question
    i need to go and look at them tomorrow
    ..and say something about your question ..

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    • harleysculpture said:

      I have been pondering the discussion about the edge in Noela’s paintings. As she has pointed out, this is a perennial discussion amongst the painters. Comments re Tony’s sculptures have highlighted the problems of being limited by the images, but I am finding that I am seeing and relating to these sculptures differently because of this. The rich complexity of the internal aspects of Tony’s sculpture, the real relationship between parts, is potentially suspended for the time being, but the way the sculpture creates an ‘edge’ is something that has become far more available. We have a static viewpoint with images online and this may go some way to explaining the object-ness Mark described to and the ‘start’ of the sculpture that both Mark and Emyr refer to. Does a static image enable a greater sense of understanding the surrounding space at that very particular point – with all the attendant problems of not having all the sculpture available? I shall be posting this onto Noela’s forum

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      • noelajamesbewry said:

        This feels like a valid point, there is another level of interest and opportunity to see sculptures in a static state on screen. The stills can highlight a particular aspect and there is of course potential for many still images all the way round. I feel images of different angles can accentuate the diverse characters and ‘edges’ within one sculpture.

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      • Mark Skilton said:

        No, a static image is misleading in sculpture as space is three dimensional and involves time as a critical element in its understanding. In looking at sculpture we do not see it from one view, like a photograph, but compile our understanding from a multitude of views.

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  29. smart said:

    From Tony
    In response to Hilde …and to Alex

    Abstract sculpture today should come with a warning.
    Beware of the unfamiliar – don’t judge it too quickly.
    Photography only works if the things in the photographs are all ready known to you.
    I don’t think about anything in sculpture on its own in isolation, when I’m working well. I think it has to be all together at the same time. It’s a frenetic activity with little time spent standing back looking [ in an ideal world ]. Being immersed seems to offer greater chances of having it all together and delivering the unfamiliar. This is a sculpture thing and very likely a ‘now’ thing. [ it’s because of construction and being able to take it down and put it back up again…and as a consequence develop the material ]
    This new three dimensionality should transcend the object and be perceived as unfamiliar.

    Currently movement seems useful as it aids change and that changing is a kind of spatial glue ! But to talk about space on its own seems impossible.But, in trying, my top priority about space is that it can create, in the sculpture, transparency, which is vital. Being able to see what the material is doing and feel it calls for this thing called space, and that is a practical consideration. However, the feelings generated between the material and the space, that it is not only passing through, containing, whatever, that feeling or those feelings of material pressing on space, treating it in effect , as a fluid material in its own right , is the real magic of constructed Abstract sculpture. In fact I will go further than that , it is the magic that is being exploited by freestyle sculpture .If one was able to see into the future, it is going to play a massive role in this new three dimensionality that is taking shape.

    So Hilde….the challenge throughout these sculptures was to make the material, and what it was doing, more credible.
    The second 2 are a development of the first 2 .In the second 2 the material is less linear and in the groupings of that kind of material it is the twisting which creates the transparency and passes on the pressures and the fluidity. The overall configuration of i could be described as a transparent boulder and 2 as a transparent wall and 3 divides the whole mass into some sort of separation and 4 has passages of clear space weaving in and out.
    These changes in material and space are ongoing attempts to a….make the sculpture more demanding and b… maintain their sculptural credibility.
    The challenge of working with flat plate and nothing else is to turn it into new material which will not limit transparency whilst at the same time being believable in its hopefully multifarious roles. I think there is more chance of avoiding the familiar if you make it all yourself and it be a part of this frenetic invention.It should be ,in effect the complete opposite of collage in sculpture.

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    • In 3 and 4: The accumulations of twists and stretches which result in the larger masses, then they themselves twist and turn in attitude. Does this accumulation create masses which are taken in, in the same sort of way? Are they acknowledged as of a type? There is so much variety of handling at the smaller scales creating a visual friction (note this is not yet “content” -which is summative rather than accumulative). Is this friction in danger of being even-handed in spite of its richly ‘identifiable’ variety. Does such an identifiable variety equate to an expressive or spatial variety in reciprocal measure… or could it run the risk of diminishing the expressiveness? The holes are crucial and I am wondering if the hole as a visual “device” is holding on to the office of contrast-making exclusively, too – these two observations are part of the same question.

      You use the word transparency. Is the transparency being achieved solely through your decision to feel the visual entirety of the work from the off? Is this grasping of the entirety “only” achievable in your eyes through such means? I ask this as now the work is getting denser in steel to make more surface drag and friction, activating more space. Will this start to shut down the prevalence of holes even further? The masses will perhaps start to gain more eccentricity (personality) and could morph into more ‘conventional’ sorts of form.

      I know you work on one at a time. That is not important as such, but is significant, none the less. I like the idea of taking out, putting back and the give and take of that (I would, though). If you are cutting the plate ribbons of a size, I wonder if this is showing your hand too early? Some passages could be even be reductive in steel activity but be forced to gain a leverage in their justification – they would have to work (or be worked) harder, to gain greater meaning, eventually – this would relate to my previous point about optimum distances and where the sculpture starts. By intensifying your contact/making time with the steel, the challenge would seem to be not to swim on one breath but to come up for air more often (excuse the pun).

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  30. smart said:

    From Tony

    Thanks to Hilde and Emyr for these questions which have made me go back in to look at them in a particular way.

    The accumulating of the bits into distorted ‘veils’, planar not massing, and their coming and going dominate the small scale pieces and sets them into being part of a changing and larger group. If the pieces were more varied in size you would lose the transparency. It has to be said that these veils are barely visible in the photographs. In 4 the balance between space and material is about 50/ 50 . The holes only exist in the photographs and are obviously spaces free to move as you move.

    I am not sure there is content as it’s known, hadn’t thought about it . If the content is ‘everything’ then why not call it the sculpture ? Content must be more of a list of constituent parts, and if it is then these sculptures have no content as such. As the veils come and go, the pressure felt in the space also comes and goes. Being in front of 3 you have to get close in because the transparency is less its effect is lessened.

    Now follows the subject of the whole. As you raise the subject this morning I’m not sure there is one , or a need for one
    One aim is to be ‘convincing’ . If the sculpture keeps going, keeps giving, that might be better than a whole.
    Being in here with them this morning, all I would say is that the size of the pieces of steel is not what i’m tripping over.

    That brings us to the photos and whether or not you can see how the small pieces do accumulate into larger ,flatter undulating entities. So the problem seems to be that the camera can not differentiate between the layers, say, being in front or behind, and does mix them up.

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  31. Hilde Skilton said:

    Tony…thank you for the explanation of your sculptures and the thinking behind your work.

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