In this image I am inspecting a newly painted bronze, recently cast for a client. This work is called the Poetry of Line; it was first made in 2009 as part of a one-man exhibition called Behind the Lines. This sculpture is part of a series of works that I made combing sculptural form with incised graphic lines. In this case the lines describe the specific anatomy of a man’s head, eyes, nose mouth etc., with contour lines mapping out the surrounding form of the face.
At the time the resulting sculpture reminded me very much of a photographic portrait I remember seeing of the poet W H Auden. I was intrigued to see if my remembered image in any way matched the photographic reality. If I am absolutely truthful there was no close resemblance but there was a certain commonality in the way that my lines symbolically mapped out the landscape of a face and the way that Auden’s tracery of etched lines bore witness to a life well lived. My search for Auden’s portrait lead to the discovery of this poem below by Frazer Sutherland called Auden’s Face. Auden’s craggy countenance seemed to have been similarly impressed onto Frazer’s memory and in reading it I felt this sculpture, while not intending to bare a specific resemblance to the poet, it did have a certain empathy with this poem and to Auden’s image, so it seemed very appropriate that the title for this work should become: Poetry of Line.
From: Matuschka Case: Selected Poems 1970-2005. Toronto: TSAR, 2006.
Much of any poetry’s dispensable, but
observe his face. A runic face, cracked
like baked clay, mud-veins left
by the drying sun. What are these hieroglyphics
this dry irony of skin? Read the message
of the temple broken open, the ark
desecrated. Was there ever a time better
than the one in which he lived? The sun
told him no. Bleached bones in a salt land
said don’t forget us. Age limned
the parchment with memory, decay, life scored
the tablet vertical, horizontal. Writing words
carefully looked up, he sought precise truth, kept
life in one pocket, work in another
like pencils. This was Auden’s face. He
chose, was given these serious ruins,
the mark of bitter weather
In both a metaphoric and compositional sense my work has become more and more concerned with defining and demarcating one visual element from the next. At the outset of making this print, Black Wings, Red Fields, these simple constructs were my main aim, so the impetus was to separate the abstracted flying-bird forms from the colour below using contoured white margins. Similarly, that ground also became divided up into fields of red. The result is perhaps reminiscent of a flag design or perhaps even something militaristic, but in developing the image, I began to think more and more about the migration of birds, particularly birds of prey, making their journeys across the Mediterranean islands where they are forced to fly the gauntlet of human hunters. As a metaphor it becomes sadly topical, as we are currently only too aware of their many human counterparts also striving to cross the same borders.
Soon to be showing in Gallery Pangolin’s Sculptor’s Prints & Drawings 2016 show. Click HERE for details.
Sculptor’s Prints & Drawings
– Part of IMPRESS ’16 Printmaking Festival
20th February – 1st April
14th November – 18th December
Chalford, Stroud GL6 8NT
Gallery Pangolin’s winter exhibition includes three of my sterling silver ‘wearable sculpture’ necklaces: Curviform, Beastiform and Double Deer. Two of these pieces were exhibited earlier this year in the Sculptor’s Jewellery exhibition at Pangolin London, Kings Place, London. The third, Double Deer, illustrated here, is a necklace specially made for the Christmas exhibition.
Wearable sculpture has a long history but is something of an unknown contemporary genre though 20th Century artists from Picasso and Alexander Calder to Lynn Chadwick and Geoffrey Clarke all made sculptor’s jewellery.
I find the idea of jewellery as wearable sculpture a fascinating and appealing concept. The normal practice for exhibiting small pieces of sculpture is to present them in splendid isolation on a plinth. Forms designed to ornament the body break free of this convention to become animated and to develop an intimate relationship with the wearer.
It seems we have a compulsion to adorn ourselves and give special significance to the objects we wear on our bodies; an incredibly ancient tradition that goes back to the very origins of art itself. One of the very earliest sculptures ever to have been discovered is a small Palaeolithic figure, the Venus of Hohle Fels, that has a carved ring in place of a head, presumably so that she could be worn as a pendant or amulet.
Some jewellery becomes so part of a person’s identity that it is never removed; other pieces are reserved for special occasions. These items when not being worn are usually carefully secreted away from view. I would like to think that in contrast ‘wearable sculpture’ when removed can revert to being an independent object again and be overtly displayed as a work of art.
In her introduction to the catalogue for ‘Sculptor’s Jewellery’ the art columnist Emma Crichton-Miller commented on my work:
“His pieces bring to the fore the ancient power of jewellery to
make its wearer special – a power that reaches back to the
origins of all artistic making.”
Recalling the Dog
After a successful showing in the exhibition ‘Coded for Colour’ at Pangolin London, Kings Place, London in June this year the sculpture heads off across the Atlantic at the end of the month to become part of a private collection in the United States.
Jon Buck: Coded for Colour from Pangolin London on Vimeo.
Jon Buck’s experimentation with colour in bronze over the past three decades has pushed the boundaries of what can be achieved in the medium more than any other contemporary artist. This film explores Buck’s journey where new processes and patinas have been devised to bring into being an extraordinary artist’s vision.
Film by Distant Object Productions, commissioned by Pangolin London.
Coded for Colour
Quotes from the catalogue introduction:
“Taking the time to look again at Buck’s work offers rich reward. Those that dismiss simple form for simple ideas will overlook the diverse lines of enquiry that Buck engages to explore the world around us. From Nickolaas Tinbergen’s theories of ‘super stimuli’ in the natural world and VS Ramachandran’s applications of it in art, to prehistoric cave paintings, anthropology and a love of poetry, Buck’s voracious reading informs and feeds his passion for exploring sign and symbol through sculpture. Whilst these interests have remained fairly constant over the past three decades Buck’s making process has been relentlessly re-developed and refined, at times taking great leaps forward and at others enjoying a period of consolidation whilst Buck takes time to gain a fuller understanding of the impact on his sculptural language. Coded for Colour offers the perfect opportunity to gain an overview of Buck’s exciting adventure with form, surface and colour. In its most distilled sense this can be seen as a detailed naturalism steadily pared down to the brink of abstraction in an attempt to capture what Buck calls ‘the essence of the thing’ and ultimately to delight the viewer and stimulate the senses to maximum effect.”
“Marked Cat and Recalling the Dog shown here for the first time illustrate two new techniques that Buck has developed to continue his exploration of colour as an important fourth dimension in his sculpture. Marked Cat uses uniform stickers to mark out, rather like masking tape, the areas he does not want painted and to give regulated pattern to an abstract organic form. In contrast Recalling the Dog uses multiple layers of paint rubbed back in areas to give an almost thermal image of the sculpture which at once makes it throb and fade, challenging our senses of sight and touch. The technique also seems to give an instant timelessness leading us to question whether the layers of paint have been worn back and eroded over millennia. Like the Acropolis what is revealed beneath the surface of Buck’s work is innately beautiful but to enjoy it with colour we can relish the full impact and savour the delight.”
Pangolin London, 2015
“An exhibition of sculpture and works on paper celebrating ‘the bull’ in all its guises.”
Gallery Pangolin, GL6 8NT
Saturday 18th April – 29th May
I have two sculptures exhibited in this show, one dating from the 1980’s, ‘Bullcalf’ and the other made in response to this exhibition, ‘Earth Bull’. The first was made as part of a group of works of animals and figures reflecting images relating to our biblical mythological heritage. The current sculpture makes more of a reference to the bull’s prehistoric symbolic history. The bull has been part of man’s lexicon of visual imagery since the Palaeolithic times, as illustrated by the beauty of the painted caves of Western Europe, and has continued as a cultural symbol to the present day. The bull has always been connected to power, potency and procreation and because of this has a strong connection with the life force of the earth itself, hence the title of my sculpture.
Are these associations relevant today? Well the bull remains very much in our everyday language and we use it readily as a suffix to describe strength and power: bull-headed, bull-market, etc. Any doubts that an engagement with this symbol remains are soon dismissed by a visit to the Camargue or Andalusia. Close proximity to these feral beasts awakens a profound visceral response to their power and our primal connection to them.
Sculpture at Canary Wharf: A Permanent Collection
Book Launch – Tuesday 3 February
Canary Wharf are celebrating their collection of public art by publishing a new book, Canary Wharf: A Permanent Collection, a companion volume to Sculpture at Canary Wharf: A Decade 0f Exhibitions published in 2011.
My sculpture, Returning to Embrace, is included in both volumes. It became part of the public art collection after being exhibited at Canary Wharf in the exhibition to celebrate the millennium, Shape of the Century: 100 years of Sculpture in Britain. It was sited at 10 Cabot Square and by popular demand was purchased by Canary Wharf to remain there.
Public Art has been an important part of my output as a sculptor and has had a considerable effect on how I consider my practice. I fulfilled my first public art commission back in 1985 as part of my remit as Community Artist in Residence for the Borough of Thamesdown. Since then, when offered the right opportunity, I have enjoyed the challenge of undertaking a number of prominent public art commissions. One of the prime reasons of course is that the commissioning of sculpture normally means that one is able to realise work on a scale that is not tenable in normal situations but perhaps even more importantly, I have relished the challenge of addressing my work to a much broader audience than might normally visit a contemporary art gallery.
Commissioned public art also requires a response to criteria one might not normally consider. The context of the site can be a major influence on the form and content of the work; the history and the environment of the location in which it will be placed can also influence the final outcome. For instance, my recent sculpture Bird in the Bush 2014, is a piece that is very much in keeping with my current work. Its inspiration however, came directly from the physical and historical context of the African landscape in which it is placed. Its form takes much from the series of Clan Totems I had previously designed to celebrate indigenous Ugandan tribal culture. The content however, very much symbolises the environmental restoration work that the commissioners, The Ruwenzori Sculpture Foundation, are undertaking on site in Western Uganda. The work is piece of public art that can be seen as a totem to the centre by both the local people and by foreign visitors.