“The craving for colour is a natural necessity just as for water or fire. Colour is the raw material indispensable for life. At every era of his existence and his history, the human being has associated colour with his joys, his actions and his pleasures”.
Fernand Leger, On Monumentality and Colour
“Consider the once gaudily painted Acropolis in Athens, the brightly coloured steel minimalism of the New Generation, Anthony Caro’s vivid red ‘Early One Morning’ or more recently Katharina Fritsch’s fibreglass ‘Hahn/Cock’. Colour in sculpture is not a new phenomenon. The development of vibrant colour in bronze however is, and Jon Buck’s work over the past three decades has continued to push its boundaries. ‘Coded for Colour’ will chart this intriguing journey from Buck’s early, brightly painted resin sculptures to a new, striking and monumental bronze.
Brightness of colour and the totemic characters of the dog and bird are distinctive features of Jon Buck’s sculpture. Features that are in part inspired from his experiences working as bird keeper at Bristol Zoo in his youth. His focus on colour however derives from something much deeper. Colour is a major part of the human experience; a signalling system that evokes an emotional response. The stimulation of the emotional senses for Buck is the essence of what the visual arts attempts to achieve. Powerful images elicit a feeling, an emotional response, first and foremost and only then does that evoke an opinion, a thought or an intellectual idea.
In line with the contemporary shift from the Modernist ideology Jon Buck’s early sculptures were highly coloured and cast in polyester resin, an aesthetic that also reflected the flexibility that the creation of new materials such as plastics allowed. These early works formed part of a new wave of sculpture; ‘Superhumanism’. It was searching for a durability to his sculpture that led Buck to casting in bronze however the reduced colour palette of black, green and brown that traditional patination allowed meant Buck concentrated on refining form and surface in his work.
Over many years of experimentation vibrant colour has been allowed to return to Buck’s work, becoming an integral part of his sculpture. Initial experiments with new and highly inventive chemical patinas, then raw pigments and finally with paint have pushed the boundaries of what can be achieved with a medium usually associated with dull tones releasing bronze sculpture from its traditional constraints. This exhibition seeks to share Jon Buck’s exciting adventure over the past three decades where new processes and patinas have been devised to bring into being an extraordinary artist’s vision and a highlight of the exhibition will be the brand new sculpture ‘Recalling the Dog’.”
Press release for Coded for Colour Exhibition, 2015, Celia Bailey, Paget PR