Rarely does a criticism/review/comment on one’s work give one food for thought which goes to the heart of one’s aims, concerns and intentions, let alone results in the actual piece(s).
The contribution to the Abcrit debate (Discussion on Abstract Sculpture, 27th June), from Tony Smart, achieved exactly this for me in relation to the sculpture series “Bridge of Echoes’ (I) as illustrated then. As a result of Tony’s remarks I was obliged to think much more clearly about the relationship of material (choice of) to the resulting building (of the piece) and its visual and physical effect (though this is always a prime concern for sculptors). In this case I had previously experimented with the use of sheet card, both in itself and mixed with plywood. It became clear (from Tony) that the compacted, dense, movemented relationships of the cut, folded stacked and glued pieces or shards of the material made a particular visual and spatial/physical impression, quite different to that which had previously resulted in steel or other materials that I had used. This ‘impression’, that Tony termed “pressure”, delighted me; I realised it was giving me something of extreme interest in terms of contributing to the sculpture’s total wholeness in and of space; avoiding what he so aptly called: “…a gentlemanly dialogue between space and material…”
Despite the advantages mentioned above, it was equally obvious that in terms of permanency, the material, as used, would not survive for very long and that some other method of achieving the same plastic result would become necessary if the pieces were not to be merely ephemeral.
For some time, as a by-product of no longer being able to work, for several disparate reasons, as formerly, in forged and welded steel, I had taken to working in sheet plywood, sawn and laminated, in various formats. It now seemed that a logical way of tackling the paper / card problem would be to ‘translate’ the ‘Bridge of Echoes’ techniques into this material (also sheet; also laminated and cut.), and therefore containing a certain parallel character though physically different.
The two new pieces illustrated are among several attempts to achieve this resulting ‘translation’ Of course, it immediately became apparent, in order not to get ‘lost in translation’, that working the plywood was not the same as working the card. I found that I had to use larger and comparatively clumsier ‘units’ of material and cut them in differing ways. It was impossible to realise the delicacy of some of the card relationships and combinations of form, but at least retain something of the density. The plywood demanded its own formats and physical combinations of parts and the laminating had to be far bolder in technique,. The scale of the parts in relation to the whole also had to be re-thought. Merely expanding the overall size by enlarging the proportions of individual elements of the card into something other in plywood would have been false. In other words the plywood sculptures were going to become different sculptures despite applying the same aims in conception; primarily, to create a sculpture in which the material (form) and space give birth to each other – physically – in a state of tension and movement – (“pressure”).
In another piece of correspondence, Tony raised the crucial issue (for abstract constructed sculpture) of the ‘ends’ – pieces of material projecting into space and going nowhere; not engaging with the space around but merely occupying it instead of, as he put it : “…swallowing back into the mix…” (and thereby engaging with space, internal and external. So the question is, can this new material function along the same lines as that of the sculpture Tony remarked upon ?
Modern sculptors in particular have expressed the opinion that it does not really matter what materials are used in the making of a piece of sculpture; it is the aim and intention and consequent result that counts, which of course, is indisputable. It is, however, also a fact that the speaker of one language may find that he cannot express the same sentiment in another one in quite the same way.
This is the comment Tim refers to, posted by Tony Smart on https://abcrit.org/2016/06/19/36-tim-scott-and-robin-greenwood-discuss-abstract-sculpture/ , 27th June 2016:
On “Bridge of Echoes 1”
This piece could have been interpreted by me as the least articulate and interesting in its extremities but for the following reasons, and after much peering into the photo I like it the most.
I see pressure, not the pressure of elongation but of piece on piece of paper moving in so many different ways against one another and in such large numbers and coming from all directions with a multitude of attitudes. This squashes the space which was there out and in the squashing and squeezing and the alternations piece on piece building to larger direction changes and movements through the piece the space becomes a memory. It is not contained or described space but a physical memory as the pressure is piled on. There would appear to be a purpose to the shape of the whole .Not something opening to the world as physical material but of the space leaving the sculpture. This is not a gentlemanly dialogue between space and material looking for unity but the one moving the other to the margins only to be squeezed back in. So, there is no ambiguity on the margins between the space of the sculpture and the space around the sculpture as I perceive it.
Put another way, it’s like squeezing wet clay in your hands and out from your fingers but alas clay being inert you have to bring it back again. The sculpture on the other hand appears to be able to not only keep this going but the sculpture which is being continually rebuilt is rebuilt in an entirely new way.
This is Tim’s paper sculpture, “Bridge of Echoes 1”, that Tony refers to:
More views of the two new plywood sculptures:
P.S. By coincidence, Tony Smart’s new work has just been posted here: https://branchron.com/2017/09/10/brancaster-chronicle-no-50-anthony-smart-sculptures/