“Modernism, Freedom, Sculpture: On”


I wrote this some time ago, at least on 26 November 2017, long before the current situation with COVID-19, and certainly before even contemplating embarking on this MA adventure. It seems apt to bring it out in the light of the cessation of physical exhibitions for the time being.


A Response to William Tucker 1977

Wood, J. Hulks, D. and Potts, A. (2012).
Modern sculpture reader. Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, pp. 325-332.


In this address, William Tucker describes the field of sculpture in 1977 as in crisis. This sense of crises arising out of the inability to describe what sculpture is exactly. The lack of identity to the term sculpture, intrinsic and comprehensive, creates ambiguity or even lack of purpose in society. Sculpture eludes a general description, unlike painting, music or architecture. This state of affairs probably came about due to the proliferation of techniques, materials and ways of making which diffused the essence of what a sculpture is. In addition, historically sculpture represented the human condition, mainly through the figure, it no longer does so to the same extent and is therefore somewhat irrelevant. The term statue once described the object aside from the way of its making. The word sculpture now encompasses both the object and the means by which it comes about. By extension, a sculptural object has no longer an existence in itself, at least semantically. The sculptural object is therefore denied its own existence without which it cannot have a clear purpose outside the patron, commission or gallery. Tucker says that sculpture has lost its human dimension (in 1977) and in order for it to regain its relevance and purpose, it needs to once again become mythical. That is to say, denote narratives and descriptions that are rooted in, and transcend the real world, but are in themselves a reflection on the world, the artist being part of the world. In short, expose nature and its essence as it once did.



Online showing further degrades the sense of physical myth, of the living presence. What I am presented with is a facsimile of experience. Online, the sensation comes from visual and auditory responses, but the human scale, the presence of the object is erased. For this reason, I have decided to show work as an unfolding of ideas more than a sensual experience. In the context of showing work online, I find that sensuality is highly restricted, sound being the predominant sense engendering feeling: the eye is relegated to the level of passivity in which responses come primarily from the head. Sound becomes the principle vehicle for feeling. Watch a film without sound, and in the vast majority of cases the experience becomes a sequence of images that I respond to intellectually, analytically. That is the state that sculpture is reduced to in contemporary online offerings. This, in turn, has given rise to a plethora of images that belie the actual presence of the work, its affecting power or, more often than not, the lack of it.

My imperfect solution for this state of affairs is to extract the myth from sculpture and make the sculpture the origin of the poetry it embodies, not its expression. The myth is translated from a transmutative process to a translational-illustrational one in which it (it being the work itself) becomes an altered reality from what it was originally.

Having said all this, I continue to create the physical presences: transmuting dreams that do not need intellectual intervention in the first instance on a palpable human scale.