The Ruwenzori Sculpture Foundation amazingly is now in its tenth year. I have been lucky enough to be involved since its conception and responsible for its very first sculpture project. The challenge was to design and make a group of small sculptures representing Ugandan tribal clan totems that could subsequently be reproduced in bronze by the newly trained Rwenzori Foundry team.
This project was not as ill considered as it may first appear. There are many traditional tribal customs such as music and dance that continue to thrive in Uganda today. The clan’s lineages and affiliations are still respected but for some reason the visual heritage that might have symbolised them have for the most part completely disappeared. In consequence it seemed a wholly legitimate concept to imaginatively recreate new totems to represent of some of the many tribal clans. In the end I designed over thirty totems many of them not surprisingly being stylistically simplified images of Uganda’s iconic wildlife.
Bronze edition of the Lugave or Pangolin Totem
Since those early days the Foundation has had many visiting artists both from Uganda and the UK and has now begun to establish a sculpture park on its site surrounding their gallery, situated near Kasese in Western Uganda. This developing project has given Rwenzori Founder’s team the considerable challenge of casting bronze sculptures on a much lager scale.
Winnie working on the clay enlargement of the Pangolin totem. Thanks to Steve Russell for the above photo.
The Foundation has chosen two of my original clan totems to enlarge and cast into bronze; the pangolin or Lugave clan totem and the leopard or Ngo clan totem to be part of this growing collection of large sculptures in the park and last month I visited to help put the finishing touches to the three and a half metre leopard enlargement.
Clay enlargement of Leopard Totem nearing completion.
The opportunity to visit Uganda regularly has given me the chance to explore some of the surrounding environments and discover the extraordinary diversity of wildlife that they support. In consequence it can be no accident that my contemporary studio work in recent years has been much influenced by these adventures and has begun to directly reflect the huge diversity of form and colour that evolution has produced on our planet over the millennia. It is also apposite to wonder how extraordinary it is that our own aesthetic empathy is reflected in this proliferation of beauty. But, one cannot help also to be painfully aware of the human pressures that are being brought to bear on this precious phenomenon and its demise is at what cost?
Common swordtail (Graphium polycenes)
Red-throated Bee-eater (Merops bulocki)
Patas monkey (Erythrocebus patas)
Saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis)
A recent drawing to be shown in Gallery Pangolin’s Christmas exhibition; 18th November – 15th December 2017
The plumages of birds are always beautiful but why have their patterns and colours evolved in such spectacular ways? Mostly it would seem, it is all about impressing a potential mate. We have some undeniably beautiful birds in this part of the world but in dark interiors of the tropical forests many species seem to have been forced to up the ante to quite some considerable degree in order to make themselves desirable. The bird in this drawing I’m afraid has evolved on the paper from the dark interior of my head but in essence, I would suggest is not far away from closely related species in reality.
This exhibition is showing some new work that I have made experimenting with fired ceramics. It has allowed new possibilities to use different textures and making techniques. These in turn have started to develop new forms and shapes that are mainly suggestive of vessels and containers. The outside patterning of raised glyphs describing either their implied or imagined function.
This is a world-class contemporary sculpture exhibition which opens at Chester Cathedral on 7 July and continues until 15 October 2017. It will be the largest modern sculpture exhibition to be held in the north west of England and will feature ninety works by over fifty internationally renowned sculptors including Damien Hirst, Anthony Gormley, Lynn Chadwick, Barbara Hepworth, Sarah Lucas, David Mach, Kenneth Armitage, Peter Randall-Page and Jon Buck, amongst others.
This exhibition takes place within the magnificent interior of Chester cathedral with the sculptures seen against the backdrop of the magnificent gothic architecture and the beautiful ancient spaces surrounding it. Several sculptures have made especially for this exhibition whilst others have been borrowed for public view from private collections.
The exhibition takes its title ‘ARK’ to be variously defined: not just the archetypal biblical vessel but also as any container or place of refuge that protects valued items. The cathedral itself can also be seen as ark-like in its traditional role as a place of sanctuary and a space for people to gather. Many of the sculptures in this exhibition can be interpreted in this metaphorical context as vessels and animal forms and as such empathise with the myriad of creatures that appear woven into the fabric of the cathedral. The cathedral, symbolised as an ARK, embraces them all.
DistantObject Production’s film ‘Jon Buck, Coded for Colour’ has been selected for screening by the Fine Arts Film Festival in Venice, California which will run from May 11th – 13th 2017.
Its US premier at the Festival,) is on May 13th at Art Share, LA. It is alongside more than 40 unique films from around the world.
The Fine Arts Film Festival (FAFF) is dedicated to showing the finest films in the world about art, photography, collectors and artists of all mediums in and out of their studios, galleries, museums, public art, and alternative art spaces. This includes video art, curated as a film medium.
You can see a couple of photos from the production on the Festival Facebook site and watch the film by clicking on the ‘Film’ section of this website.
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.”