#113. Tim Scott writes on New Sculpture and Direction, Movement, Space and Physicality; Robin Greenwood writes on Three-dimensionality.

Towards a New Sculpture: 2

Tim Scott writes on Direction; Movement; Space; Physicality.

Direction:

Far too frequently, direction has depended on ‘received’ form that is most often provided by manufactured preformed material, but can also equally be the product of shaping and forming any material by the sculptor. Historically, in sculpture, it was most often the bi-product of gesture, usually provided by the subject matter. In abstract sculpture this source disappears as being self-evident and decisions around it become crucial. The start, ‘from where’, and the finish, ‘to where’. of any sculptural part is of vital importance plastically. All too often it is merely a cosmetic decision that forms part of a composition that the various parts of the sculpture conform to. Direction is an expressive decision of intent which should have physical meaning and purpose and contribute to the plastic realisation of the whole piece.

Movement:

The ‘liveness’ of life is movement. Take a plaster cast of, let us say. one’s hand, which in reality changes from millisecond to millisecond resulting in a living, breathing thing – life. The plaster hand, though a perfect reproduction in every respect, is dead, inert, life-LESS; lacking the movement of change which is integral to the real hand. Sculpture cannot reproduce this movement; but it can and must simulate it in some decisive respect if the forms are to convey any feeling or emotion visually. Movement is the essence of life; sculpture’s job is to create and purvey this essence without actually possessing it.

Space:

Space is the forgotten element of sculptural creation. Most sculpture, down the ages, has either ignored the aesthetic effect it may have in relation to the physical body of the sculpture(s) or merely treated it as displacement – what was there before being replaced by something else.

A new sculpture cannot afford to ignore this aspect of its conception. A new sculpture must envision the effects of spatial occupation and manipulation as a positive asset in the creative process; an asset that can be developed and incorporated for its own qualities and possibilities as an integral part of the sculpture.

Most examples from the history of modern sculpture have been limited by a vision which is essentially two-dimensional, graphic as in drawing, i.e. planar; or, if aspiring to the three-dimensional, architectural or environmental. Sculptural space IS three-dimensional by definition. A new sculpture will attempt to expand upon and enlarge these limitations, and envisage space as a true integer of the sculpture’s conception and making.

Physicality:

Physicality is of the essence in a piece of sculpture. Without it, the effect is lifeless, dead, a body without blood in its veins; an amorphous lump.

Modern sculpture has had a difficult relationship with physicality because it was either imported from the real physical parts of the body (usually human), or it was accepted as a biproduct of ‘given’ form as being employed in the makings of the sculpture.

Much modern sculpture has fallen into the trap of assuming that inflated form is synonymous with physicality. From Picasso down to Henry Moore and all that lies in between, there are innumerable examples of sculptures with ballooned up forms passing for the idea of physicality; the assumption being that an enlarged beyond the norm form will create the desired effect. True physicality in sculpture though. is the result of a translation of the observation and understanding of real physical forces into sculptural equivalents; not just the gaining of a ‘look’

Whatever source the infusion of physicality may have in the evolution of a sculptural idea, it, a priori, should be based in an adequate recognition of the forces that create it, both literal and visual.

Some late twentieth century sculpture has made a strong bid to replenish awareness of the importance of responding to this earlier lack of perception of physicality in the development of a modern sculpture into its various strands by attempting a new body of work for the present day.

A new (abstract) sculpture will be faced with the intense discipline of an adequate consideration of Direction, Movement, Space and Physicality into its conception as essential.

 

Robin Greenwood writes on Three-dimensionality.

Tim,

Although there have been lots of sculptures made throughout history that have dealt by different degrees with the important issues you raise here – direction, movement, space, physicality – there is little in sculpture’s past, not even in its recent non-figurative past, that has been convincing in how it has dealt with a full, explicit, and multi-directional three-dimensionality. In fact, sculptors have often idly or deliberately used a frontal or flattened or simplified “design” of spatial content (or adopted the figure wholesale) which, as you agree, is generally unprogressive. So this is the place where I find myself now in my own work, trying to deal with things that have no connection with figures or architectures or images or how things do or don’t stand physically in relation to aspects of the real world. I don’t find these subjects as interesting as I did because the content I am trying to engage with now has nothing much to do with the content of sculpture that has been made in the past, including my own.

My personal view is that three-dimensionality is the biggest and most dynamic new focus that abstract sculpture can engage with, and, as it does so, it will distinguish itself yet further from both figurative and more recently non-figurative sculpture. It feels like a different discipline, a different way of thinking, about how to engage with what belongs uniquely to abstract sculpture alone. Actually, I’m not really sure on my part that it is a conscious “way of thinking” about sculpture, because to some extent it feels more like a “walking away from” the things we have talked about as important in sculpture for so long, in order to be able to move towards something new; something with an outcome that I don’t know how to predict; something that has lots of variety in the way it can bring together very different things in a successful sculptural wholeness; things that have not previously been brought together in sculpture.

Whilst I think “space” in sculpture is important, it remains in my understanding something that is associated with figuration, because it is either directly related to the body, or at the very least has an architectural connection that is referenced outside of the sculpture itself, a part of an inevitable contextualisation. “Space” tends perhaps towards being in some way descriptive, and, as we have often seen, it gets worked in a linear fashion, articulating material from A to B. That might have been enough once, if we had not recently put so much pressure on what space might do or not do in relation to being fully abstract. Spatiality as an end-game now seems limited compared to what is possible with a free-flowing three-dimensionality that can come and go, back and forth, in an open and unlimited way, not reliant on either subject or context.

You say, Tim, that “Sculptural space IS three-dimensional by definition”, but, as you see, I’m not really agreeing wholly with that. These things are a matter of degree, and I don’t put down spatiality completely, but even with recent sculptures, those we have perhaps accidentally or inadvertently called “abstract” (or perhaps “abstractions”), there are, for example, many, many non-figurative, constructed sculptures (e.g. Caro, Smith etc., etc.) that occupy and define space without in the least addressing something fundamental to the potential weirdness/newness of their internal three-dimensional “relations”. “Spatial” can look very predictable and banal. “Three-dimensional” can now look very challenging. When repetitions and outside references, or flatness and design, are in the mix, the differences that abstract sculpture might address become rather lost.

If three-dimensionality can really take precedence over spatiality (and indeed over physicality, movement and direction, as you list them), the freedom for abstract sculpture to be itself and “do its own thing”, in ways and means that are unparalleled, begins to look really amazing. We cannot really pre-define or pre-empt or pre-plan our sculptures if they are going to be fully abstract, but we can work openly with that unpredictability, in the discovery of new, exciting three-dimensional content, whatever that might turn out to be.

Can we make sculpture that is even more abstract than we have so far imagined, more independent of our own previous ideas, freer of references to ourselves or anything that is figurative, architectural, and – I’d even go so far as saying – structural? Is that going too far? That’s an interesting question: what is necessarily structural in abstract sculpture, and is it fundamentally different than figurative or architectural structures, as we have understood them in the past? For example, does abstract sculpture have to address how it stands in the world (on the floor, for example), in the manner that lots of sculpture has given much previous attention to? Does it have to give some consideration to how it addresses us, the viewer, in the way if often has in the past? At the moment, such considerations are, for my part, outrun by the spontaneous and unforeseen involvement with a kind of fluid, rather non-structural three-dimensionality – even though I don’t really know quite how to define such things. Truly three-dimensional sculptural parts seem to suggest to me that they can join in ways that are unfamiliar, and work in ways that function together more inadvertently and “naturally”. I think three-dimensions, when it acts in new abstract sculpture, is not really referencing anything I can put my finger on beyond its own ever-changing, ever re-defining, “activity”. Maybe it is self-informing… maybe it is connected to time spent looking… maybe it just gets on with its own business on its own terms, and we take from it what we can, on ITS terms, not ours, without the need to read into it our own assumptions.

Enough for now. And we haven’t even talked about “scale” in sculpture (particularly “human” scale), which once seemed so important – and now I’m rather sure isn’t!

41 comments

  1. Addendum – I would like to point out that any comment i have made above is in no way intended to be prescriptive -“a new sculpture should be or should not be this or that”. I merely want to emphasise aspects of sculpture making that I feel need to be readdressed accordingly.

    Robin – “…Can we make sculpture that is even more abstract than we have so far imagined, more independent of our own previous ideas, freer of references to ourselves or anything that is figurative, architectural, and – I’ld even go as far as saying – structural ?…”

    Your somewhat mystical view of ‘three dimensionalty’ worries me a little. As I have said, and I hope ,mathematicians will correct me if I am wrong, the sphere.represents the ultimate in physical three dimensions; if you wish to extend that into the ether you will need Physics to provide the answer,,not Sculpture. Or perhaps it can be resolved on the computer (which I am sure lots of ‘artists’ would say is the future of art).
    I cannot see the point of a ‘structure-less’ sculpture. If sculpture is the art of representing our physical emotions and mental constructs around them in a comprehensible form of making and physical being, we are tied to the laws of gravity etc.,as has already been reiterated many times.
    And indeed why should we not want to be ? These laws are what governs our existence and as a consequence our feelings and emotions generated by experience, from which we derive our desire to express them in sculptural form. To deny them is to deny ourselves.

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  2. I don’t really want to make abstract sculpture that is wholly tied to the laws of gravity, belt and braces – in fact, I’m rather interested in making work that exhibits an independence from these constrictions, which seem always linked to a figurative or architectural organisation. Nor do I see a connection in what I am doing with the sphere. Mathematics and physics don’t contribute much -at least, not in new abstract sculpture. I’m looking for some kind of freedom or independence from all this. Perhaps it would be good to have a look at this recent work to see where I’m coming from:

    https://robingreenwood.com/sculpture/

    These recent works are very much engaged (with my idea) of what constitutes three-dimensionality, something that can operate “all over the place” at once.

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  3. But Robin – it looks very much to me (from the photo only of course) that your sculpture is very much LIKE a ball (sphere) in format and could almost be rolled about ! This is not to say that there is anything wrong with that, but I don’t see it as defining anything particularly three dimensional as a result.
    I would argue that any real sculptural three dimensiionality (and I totally agree that much sculpture is and has been very lacking in it),has to be created and conditioned by those other essential factors of sculpture making (that I have listed and others besides which are subject to the laws of physics as we know and experience them.
    If we ignore these fundamental factors in favour of a ‘spiritual’ search for an as yet unknown sculptural ethos we are going to go round in circles (pun not intended)..

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    1. If that looks like a ball, you must have very funny balls (pun possibly intended!). And yes, in fact it HAS been rolled around during the making – quite a few times, and hung up, and turned over etc., etc. What’s the problem with that? It never had a finished idea imposed upon it from the start anyway, nor an idea of a particular structure brought to bear on it as a way of restricting how it works. With a work like this it’s all up for grabs and totally liable to change right from the beginning, and again during the whole of the making. What is important to me is that all the parts are at some stage discovered to be in a three-dimensional interaction that comprises a “wholeness”. This is more important than the spatiality – though it IS spatial. If you saw it in the flesh, you would (hopefully) get the wholeness from all viewpoints. THAT’S three-dimensional! It has nothing to do with image or “shape”.

      Try a few others on my website. I’m showing 23 this weekend, along with 27 paintings. I think they are dealing with three-dimensions too, and how to reconcile that with two-dimensions in paint, but that’s another story.

      Also, where does the “spiritual” thing come into the equation? I have no spiritual pretentions at all. Nothing to do with me! I’m just looking for new ways of putting stuff together, in as much variety as I can bring to the equation.

      A “search for an as yet unknown sculptural ethos” is something again I don’t understand. Would you want to use a “known” sculptural ethos? I really have no idea. I’m for ignoring these “fundamental factors” as much as possible, because they are going nowhere.

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  4. Robin
    Is your “three-dimensionality” a property of just the solid material in the sculpture and “spatiality” a property of the whole thing? Or how exactly do you distinguish these two?
    And is “structure” for you something predetermined and imposed on the sculpture, rather than something freely discovered?
    A sculpture cannot help but have structure in at least one commonplace sense of the word.
    It´s confusing when a word like “structure” is redefined as something along the lines of “bad structure” or “preconceived structure”.

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    1. I would say that the three-dimensionality of my recent sculpture is a product of the complexity and variation of the whole thing – so it is certainly something arrived at. It happens by degrees. The work certainly doesn’t immediately start with an inbuilt three-dimensionality. I try often to make this property expand and grow as I work. That might mean ignoring certain spatiality and structure, maybe even destroying it, in favour of a particular way of going after something else.

      The spatiality of a sculpture, as I have discussed it with Tim, does not necessarily have a connection with the three-dimensionality, or configure it – or vice-versa. The fact that my sculpture inhabits space does not mean it is pre-determined or pre-empted by it. Its occupation of space happens as a natural result of more abstract considerations as they get made. I don’t wish the spatial thing to dominate.

      Tim and I disagree about structure. Obviously, one could say at the end of the day that these works, like anything else, have a visual structure of some description (how to describe it, though, I don’t know, other than as “free” three-dimensionality!), but not the kind that one might be familiar with in the figure or in architectural ideas, etc.

      Sorry if that it is confusing, but whilst I don’t categorise structure from past sculpture as being by definition “bad” (though surely a lot of it is), I am not interested in using that sort of approach. Nor do I work with preconceived structures of any sort any more, as far as I can tell.

      Not much more I can add to that.

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  5. No problem at all Robin – I do the same.. Nor do I have any “finished idea imposed upon it from the start” . Nor an “…idea of a particular structure brought to bear on it…”.
    My point in suggesting categories of sculptural concern for discussion was that it is a good idea to re-examine (for a new sculpture) HOW “… the parts are at some stage discovered to be in a three dimensional interaction…”
    My suggestions (there could be others) for defining these ‘hows’ I feel is needed if we are not to be lost in a cloud of ‘maybes’ and ill defined assumptions and, yes, figurative or architectural references.
    I cannot see how anything that physically deals with forces and obeys the laws of Nature can not have a ‘structure’.

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  6. Thanks Robin. I suppose I still don´t quite get the distinction between space and three-dimensions. Maybe it´s a sculptor thing.

    The reason I´m commenting here is that I can imagine a very similar list to Tim´s for painting, which would include colour, structure, spatiality, surface/materiality as inescapable elements that are quite simply there and up for consideration in any work.

    Finding convincing, simultaneous answers to the challenges already opened up with the first mark or piece of metal and then further complicated with each addition seems to me to be an important part of making art.
    I´m with you all the way on the free-flowing, spontaneous, intuitive but critical method you seem to advocate.
    There comes a point though when the work is finished or as finished as one is able to make it, and however this point is arrived at, it seems to me that it is here where all those challenges have to have found a satisfactory resolution in (for painting) colour harmony, structural balance, surface integration, spatial coherence etc.
    Of course, it is much more interesting if these are new, adventurous, edgy, challenging, groundbreaking or whatever, but I think it is inflationary to talk about “doing away with” or “going beyond” scale, structure, balance, harmony and Co. when all that is meant (to me) is looking for new, adventurous solutions to the age-old, inevitable problems.

    I also think it is possible to make art that is semantically/symbolically/emotionally interesting without employing brand new formal solutions, but that´s a different argument.

    I´d be interested to hear your take on movement in sculpture. It doesn´t often get mentioned here or at the Brancaster discussions. Like space in painting, movement in sculpture must presumably be illusory, which makes it a wholly different consideration with more complex ramifications concerning projection and figuration to something like three-dimensionality in sculpture.

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  7. Richard,
    I’m trying hard to avoid that long list in painting now, as well as sculpture! Doesn’t all this stuff just seem clumsy and irrelevant in the context of making abstract art? You can’t put all that theory in your work, can you?

    As for “art that is semantically/symbolically/emotionally interesting”, I doubt I want to even start thinking about that.

    As Ethan says, let’s get to the point! New abstract art seems the point to me. Chuck everything and go direct, because that is complex enough to deal with. Everything else already in the “system” will pull it all back down again.

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    1. Yes, I agree. Just do it!

      But I do think that the success of just doing it depends on having internalized something akin to those long lists. They may not help in any conscious way, but I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing to have them lodged somewhere deep in the vicinity of one’s lizard brain.

      How many boring artists are there who “just do it”?

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  8. Whatever you have or haven´t thought about when making them, these seem to be ticking most if not all the boxes on those lists!
    Looking forward to a great show on Saturday.

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  9. Id be interested to know what you feel the relationship is between your sculpture and paintings,given the extremely different criteria of both ,and whether you feel the relationship is something you look for?

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  10. Patrick…interesting question.

    My hope would be that anyone who is going on Saturday to see Robin’s sculpture and painting has already had a think about any intellectual relationship there may or not be between abstract painting and abstract sculpture…..this based on Patrick’s assertion..”given the extremely different criteria of both”.

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  11. I was intending to follow up from where we got to, but I’ll wait until your show is on and see if anything comes out of it.

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  12. Great comment from Tim: “If sculpture is the art of representing our physical emotions and mental constructs around them in a comprehensible form of making and physical being, we are tied to the laws of gravity etc.,as has already been reiterated many times.
    And indeed why should we not want to be ? These laws are what governs our existence and as a consequence our feelings and emotions generated by experience, from which we derive our desire to express them in sculptural form. To deny them is to deny ourselves.”

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  13. Tim: Not too long ago, some philosophers made reputations by pointing out (for example) that when we look at a three-dimensional solid object, we don’t REALLY see it at all, because we can’t see the other side of it, the inside of it, the sides, etc. To which the response is that we can imagine a context in which this observation makes sense (e.g., the other side is marked in a distinctive way so that our failure to see it suggests that it is HIDDEN), but in the absence of such a special context, the observation is really pointless, empty, not informative, and thus meaningless.

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    1. Thank you Carl for the information on the philosophical observation’
      Not being a philosopher, I have no particular response but the common sense one of the fact of the human mind never being satisfied with something as elementary as a one sided view point (of anything, including objects),,and therefore taking steps to ensure a more satisfactory outcome of the observation.
      As far as sculpture is concerned, it would seem to me to be axiomatic that interest in any aspect of any ‘object’ of the physical ‘world’ would be, of necessity, multi dimensional in its attempt at comprehension and description..

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  14. Incidentally – Richard. to take up your comment (above) :
    ” Of course it is much more interesting if these are new, adventurous, edgy, challenging, groundbreaking, or whatever. but I think it is inflationary to talk about “doing away with” or “going beyond” scale, structure, balance, harmony and co., when all that is meant (to me) is looking for new, adventurous solutions to the age old inevitable problems “.

    Quite – but the question of real interest is I repeat. HOW are we to set about this; what are the priorities; of course in painting as much as in sculpture.? My ‘list’ is merely an attempt to pin point some of the means of making sculpture that I feel need to be reconsidered IF we are to arrive at “adventurous solutions”.

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  15. Tim, your rhetorical question (“And indeed why should we not want to be ?”) seems to ask why it is that we humans are sometimes shocked, surprised and unhappy when we discover that we are limited – by being embodied, being subject to gravity, not being able to see around corners and beyond horizons, not being able to see from a perspective that is not ours (by virtue of bodily posture and position), etc. Why do we have the nagging sense that, faced with something we can’t do, we imagine that inability as a deficiency? I think that these questions are related to how sculptures attempt to deal with space.

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  16. Carl – I agree with your proposition.
    If Sculpture (at its best) is a plastically created metaphor for some aspects of the human physical condition, then one cannot ignore the laws which give birth and govern this condition; It is then germaine to consider its mechanisms including, of course, the use of space,.in achieving it.
    Given that the greatest quantity of past sculpture has had the advantage of a direct physical reference to the human body and its activities,, this has been a comparatively easily read (seen) attribute of the work. A goal which abstract sculpture, which to my mind seems to be the only route worth persuing in a search for originality of expression, is less favoured with in such an obvious way.
    But that does not signify to my mind that a ‘new sculpture’ (abstract) can be culled from the imagination or from unknown outer mental space without due recognition of the limitations (lack of freedom ?) that the laws governing the human physical condition impose. .I suggest that ‘three dimensionality’, ‘spatiality’ , ‘physicality’ etc., need to be reconsidered in this light if a new ‘humanity’ is to be found in abstract sculpture for they are the mechanisms by which it will be sought and without which it would be sterile.

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    1. “If sculpture is the art of representing our physical emotions and mental constructs around them in a comprehensible form of making and physical being, we are tied to the laws of gravity etc.as has already been reiterated many times.
      And indeed why should we not want to be ? These laws are what governs our existence and as a consequence our feelings and emotions generated by experience, from which we derive our desire to express them in sculptural form. To deny them is to deny ourselves.”

      Some examples would be very helpful here, Tim, if you think “sculpture is the art of representing our physical emotions and mental constructs…” If one wishes it to be abstract, why cannot it be something else that does NOT represent any such thing? I think you are tying sculpture here into a strongly wished-for theoretical and figurative knot from which there is no escape.

      “If Sculpture (at its best) is a plastically created metaphor for some aspects of the human physical condition, then one cannot ignore the laws which give birth and govern this condition; It is then germane to consider its mechanisms including, of course, the use of space,.in achieving it. Given that the greatest quantity of past sculpture has had the advantage of a direct physical reference to the human body and its activities, this has been a comparatively easily read (seen) attribute of the work.”

      If sculpture is to be a “metaphor for the human condition”, that is for me the end of any ambition for to be abstract. I cannot see how it can be both abstract and metaphorical – surely the latter is figurative! Your definition or idea, if you think it is true, needs a demonstration from actual examples of abstract sculpture… Good luck in finding a few of them!

      Not only that, but even worse – I see no advantage at all for abstract sculpture to have any “direct physical reference to the human body and its activities…” We’ve seen the failure of that over and over. I’d say the best you could run to here is to MAYBE assert that abstract sculpture has an indirect and illusionistic link to a non-figurative physicality.

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  17. Robin – It is indeed difficult to put one’s thinking into words adequately but I will try:

    Firstly, some corrections:
    1. You left out the important “around them in a comprehensible form of MAKING and physical being..” i.e sculpture.
    2. I said “…some aspects of the human PHYSICAL condition…” I leave the human condition as such to Tolstoy.
    3. I said that “…PAST SCULPTURE (meaning figurative sculpture of course) had the advantage of a direct physical reference…” not abstract sculpture that is being attempted now
    .
    I will continue with some assumptions:

    I assume: Having been born into and lived in our world as created by the laws of Nature, that it was the visual and physical inspiration that world gave that made one wish to be a sculptor in the first place. Therefore one is making sculpture to say something. (hopefully inspired), about that world ? That inspiration is NOT by definintion figurative. as such, for abstract sculpture in its REALISATION, though it may well have been in origin.

    I assume That the “metaphor” is a sculpture as being made. It is the MAKING that decides whether it is to be figurative, abstract or anything else, NOT the metaphor. It is the pressure of the inspiration that drives the initial decision making as to what sort of sculpture one is aiming for’

    I assume….That this same pressure has led to the dissatisfaction with old models of sculpture making. that we are constantly mentioning, and drives the desire to make something new and original in abstract sculpture.

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  18. When it comes to illustrating with an example, one is forced to fall back on something that is familiar to all; Let’s say.for want of anything better known: Caro’s ‘Early One Morning’.
    I have no idea what inspired this sculpture’s origin. But I am pretty sure that it would have been to do with the artist’s experiences and knowledge of the physical and visual world that he had experienced in his life as well as that of previous sculpture making.
    That analysis of this sculpture in the light of later experience, interests and historical changes, questions many of the assumptions of it and of the time that it was made, is neither here nor there; it does not alter the human PROCESS that lies behind the making of a sculpture

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    1. So is it the “process” upon which one judges the work? I have to judge from what I see.

      As you say, we cannot guess too much about Caro’s motives. This is an interesting semi-figurative sculpture that seems to derive several rather unrelated “viewpoints” from ideas in engineering and architecture, but is it abstract? It’s hard to relate to it now, in the light of what is happening, because it has no three-dimensionality at all in how parts relate in configurations of complex wholeness, despite (or because of) its large-scale spatiality. That returns me to the assertion that abstract sculpture is now much more into a new way of thinking about three-dimensionality.

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  19. What we are involved in , this constructing of Abstract sculpture, this putting together of bits of stuff, is responding to the merest glimpse of a ‘ moment ‘ when a group of such pieces ,in and across space , become that moment of exhilarating, meaningful and intelligent sense. It’s a sense that cannot be explained, only encouraged, encouraged to press on and discover, invent more, and if you are lucky ,gather enough to feel a level of total satisfaction because for some inexplicable reason the grouping seems to have become a life of its own.
    I guess it’s a taboo to tempt fate and break the spell and try to describe what we see in the now.
    But if we don’t discuss the examples of the now and only look back to the past we let go of the particular magic of the now. It is as if the now cannot be as strong as what went before.
    The past is just a compression of ‘past nows’ but already parcelled up and seemingly decided upon whereas the now is in the process still of examination and consequently still holds the potential of being better.
    Speaking of which, the latest groupings of such moments are on show at Block K , Bermondsey High Street courtesy of Robin Greenwood.
    If you cannot go to see it, pour over the photos. Work them out.It can be done. I have just seen them and they are terrific.
    And when sculpture succeeds in being complex and whole in the way I describe it is perhaps only necessary to make a simple sentence or two because the thing of the now can speak for itself.

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  20. Great comment from Tony.

    I think it may be misleading or even perhaps plain wrong to talk about the physical world in the context of this discussion. The “physical world” has connotations of subjective experience as rationally ordered and objectified through the lens of and according to the criteria of science and ultimately physics.
    Art, and particularly abstract art, is more like an attempt to (rationally) order and objectify subjective experience through a multiplicity of radically different lenses and according to the (possibly less rigid) criteria of multiple artforms.

    I think that Robin is right to argue that art shouldn´t concern itself with the “physical world” in this sense, but also that Tim is right in that art must very much be concerned with human experience – just not through the intermediate stage of discursive, scientific thinking.
    This, for me, is where concept art goes wrong: Instead of dealing directly with human experience, it contents itself with the illustration of discursive ideas. The same goes for academic figurative art, but not, I think, for intuitively arrived at, directly visual figuration.

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  21. Robin again – Can I go back to the beginning and take up your comments on ‘three dimensionality’ ?
    `”…something that can operate all over the place…” What operates all over the place is material of one sort or another: clay, stone, wood, steel and so on. This material, whatever you do with it, is subject to the laws that you “seek independence from”. “Freedom’ will not in itself create a new sculpture.even if it were possible to gain it.
    To me, it is far more interesting to seek to know, within these ‘restrictions; whether it is possible to make this material, the parts of a potential sculpture\s three dimensionality, three dimensional in toto. in expression; (rather than of course,merely literally).
    It is not “belt and braces” to subsume into a greater vision.the necessary ‘limitations’ of a sculpture’s making. To examine ‘how’ taking into account all sculpture;s past will I suggest advance our ability to see more clearly.

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    1. We’ll have to agree to differ on at least some of these issues, Tim.

      Material, in itself, as per in the Caro, has nothing really to contribute to a vital, complex, excitingly different sculptural three-dimensionality. The material in the Caro remains just “stuff”, bolted or welded together in a spatial arrangement of no honest difference to that which constitutes either architecture or technology. Look at most modern building structures – what happens to the material in such an instance is not three-dimensionality, just a technical arrangement to facilitate a particular space. Here and elsewhere in non-sculptural disciplines, from which artists borrow ideas because they cannot seemingly address sculpture’s own exciting abilities, are many of the unhelpful rules of modern art, re-drawn as (spurious) artistic values, and really restricted by demands that offer nothing for new abstract sculpture’s individuality and totally unique freedom of expression. Sure, the ambition of freedom may fail, but I’m more than happy to go down that route, and lose a few to win a few.

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  22. Robin – I am not aware that I said that I judge sculpture from the processes that went into its making. Of course I don’t.
    Tony – That is exactly what I want to do – “discuss the examples of the now”.

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    1. Aha, yes Tim, but how are you going to do that unless you:
      A) bring your new work over here,
      and
      B) come and see our new work.

      Ours is the only stuff worth engaging with, as I can see. Not sure photos are enough for me to understand what’s happening, though Tony seems pretty good at doing that thing.

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  23. An indisputable conundrum, Robin; and one that I had hoped to have ended by now. I live in hope.
    ALL my comments have been directed specifically at underlying thinking, NEVER at individual works
    Tony is VERY good at that sort of thing.

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  24. Im not sure if this is allowed,but for those who have not seen Robins show in his studio ,I urge you to go.We spent a very serious afternoon,first looking at the Paintings ,of which I was critical ,only in the sense of not having one far enough ,in the direction taken.However the second part was looking at the sculpture.There were so many it was hard to engage with them individually ,until Mark Skilton and Tony Smart began to dismantle them visually.At this point ,time stood still and that thing happened,which only happens with very ,very good work,everything else seemed irrelevant .And yet there was a real sense of Life,of everything else,My overall impression initially ,was of a very good Artist.I left feeling I had been in the company of a Master ,in the sculpture.

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  25. some juicy ideas happening on this thread.. is robin the tony stark of abstract sculpture? does sculpture have to embody something or should sculpture be a challenge to the body? a sculpture literally opens up a space in time-and robin chooses to take that space for granted-much to his benefit. but i don’t think we really can neglect this question of ‘stuff’. does stuff count for nothing?

    Like

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