Immortals – a new exhibition for GX Gallery – 1-19 September, 2015
private view Wednesday, 2 September 7 – 9pm
After a break of several years, I am preparing for another exhibition with GX Gallery in London, called Immortals. Selecting new work for this exhibition with the gallery has made me freshly consider my artistic ambitions. And I have come to realise that spirituality has always been at the core of my artistic practise. Many art forms attempt to call into being the transparent, the indefinable, to obliterate the rigidities of space and time. Music and poetry in particular come to mind. But can it be possible to explore spirituality through the plastic means of visual art? And in particular the heaviness of sculpture?
The challenge for me has been to use a heavy solid material art form, sculpture, to represent a transcendent lightness. Is it a contradiction to create forms which describe an angel, using the physicality of sculptural material? It has always been an aim of mine to make work which touches this ethereal plane. And I have tried to explore this elusive world with the tools and skills I have – that of a sculptor.
Using text has been one way to make the heavy solidity of sculpture deliver a message of poetic lightness. The poetry which has inspired me has included the Metamorphoses of Ovid and the Divine Comedy of Dante. These are poems which have as their subject mutability and transcendence. Steel is a base, heavy metal, but it attains lightness when it is pierced to the form words of poetry. An angel made up of poetry which outlines the shape of this impossible yet very imaginable being, shows this duality well I think. A large physical object leading our thoughts to a transcendent vision of heaven. A heavy steel structure is pierced with a poet’s thoughts and allows the sky to penetrate it.
The Solace of Sculpture
This piercing of heavy sculptural elements has been a part of my vocabulary for as long as I can remember. And it is not just the mass which wants piercing, but also the illusions created by the ‘artifice’ of art. The heaviness of a mountain, described in paint on a slab of steel, then pierced with the silhouette of a human figure. This is a man in a mountain, defined by its emptiness.
A man visited my studio one day, and looked past all of the larger works there, but this small piece, obviously a sketch idea, was what caught his eye. And this is what he took away with him. Some years later, he developed cancer which was treated and was in remission. But later it returned. And when his illness was terminal, in the hospital, he asked his partner to bring him only one thing – this small sculpture he had purchased from me years before.
His partner couldn’t understand why he wanted only this object. “It is a man”, he said to her, “within a mountain”. I was deeply moved that this little piece seemed to be able to give him solace. What more can be asked of a work of art?
Taking a Break
Arvo Pärt said of his long period of silence, that all of his work prior to this seemed “Too complex, too constructed, too dry. I wanted to get in touch again with the feeling for a simple phrase. I wanted to find something that was simple, alive, not destructive. I wanted to find a simple musical line that lived inwardly and breathed simply”.
Recently I took a break from exhibiting in commercial galleries. Being a professional artist has a built in contradiction. I believe art should provide a respite from the material world of consumption and possession and should remind us that there is something more. Art can uniquely speak of something indefinable, no less important for being almost invisible to us most of the time. And yet an exhibiting artist has no choice but to commodotise his art and sell it in a market. After 8 years of working with GX Gallery, doing a successful selling exhibition every year – in some years two – I felt the need to renew myself, to start from zero and get back in touch with the simple act of creation. Like a field of fresh snow where no one has walked, and to take the first steps.
Moment to Moment
And so I just began with simple single sculptures, and whether than having a grand plan or the deadline of an exhibition, I could just follow these sculptures where they would lead me. Gradually I created over 120 sculptures, which in the end told a single story – the story of a life. Childhood, travel, marriage, making a home, and eventual transcendence. It could have been my own life, but also a metaphor for everyone’s life. This was the Moment to Moment series. As often happens, just following my own creative spark where it led, the work became a public exhibition. It began in Lecce in southern Italy, in a glorious 12th century public building which it was perfect for ‘Moment to Moment’ – or, as it became in Italian, ‘da un momento all’altro’.
It was something which I never would have attempted had I been working every year for another gallery exhibition. From Lecce, Moment to Moment traveled to Savona in north Italy. When I brought M2M to the UK, the spirituality in the work lent itself to exhibiting in cathedrals, and it was seen by over 50,000 people in St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, before traveling on to Chichester, Ely, and finally Rochester Cathedral where it was filmed by the BBC. You can see the BBC film here.
I have now seen the connection between the various aspects of my work – it all seems to be about finding the transcendent in the everyday. So the paintings, although they are recognisable views, offer a magical quality which hopefully lifts them into the realm of the indefinable. And the sculptures have been concerned similarly with a spirituality within a physicality of the human form – they have included angels, figures made entirely of poetry, and been inspired by Ovid and Dante. Now I have found that Hindu sculpture is a great inspiration to me – in their intersection of humans and deities, in large number of figures within a single large figure. Like the Metamorphoses of Ovid, they give an inkling of the very human emotions which govern these deities, and also depict the dramatic meeting of mortal men and women with these deities.
New Works for Immortals at GX Gallery
The idea of a single sculptural idea developed over many smaller works has been further developed in a new series of large scale works called ‘Immortals’. These continue my exploration of the intersection between daily life and the ethereal. These are completely new, and an expansion of my core ideas about art.
There will be some new paintings in the familiar style of my previous exhibitions at GX, but these can now be seen in the wider context of all of the work, which explores the spirituality of the everyday.
This conflict between the role of art in highlighting the internal creative spark and the demands of the ‘art market’ has made public art an important part of my practise. Wherever possible, I have tried to engage with communities to share this creativity, and create public art which is accessible and is readily adopted by the community it is place within. Public art is a ‘gift’ for all people to enjoy, not just aficionados or the wealthy collectors. In addition, the public art projects I have been engaged in has allowed me to share my enthusiasm with people who might not otherwise have a chance to experience art in such a direct and permanent way – with homeless people, with residents of housing estates, with school staff and children.
Sculpture’s Place in the Public Space
In addition to the exhibition at GX Gallery, I am working with the Museum of Walking to organise a Public Sculpture Walk. We will begin at the Queens Road, Peckham train station and walk up to visit Kender School and the Brimmington Park. From there we will walk to Nunhead Station, and on to Nunhead Green. The walk will conclude with a panel discussion on ‘Sculpture’s Place in the Public Space’, to be held at the new Nunhead Community Centre. Other participants include Ingrid Beasley who organised the Street Art for Dulwich and Peckham and others to be announced.
Immortals – new work by Randy Klein at the GX Gallery will run from 1-19 September. Private view on Wednesday, 2 September 7 – 9pm.
GX Gallery 43 Denmark Hill London SE5 8RS
GX Gallery website
‘Sculpture’s Place in the Public Space’ will take place on 16 September, 2015
Museum of Walking website or contact Andrew Stuck firstname.lastname@example.org