Open Sculpture and Language

At a recent Brancaster Chronicle whilst Tony Smart, it occurred to me that the language used to describe the work often ran into conflicts. Smart's work is radical and exciting and is part of an unfolding of work which could be categorised as "Open Sculpture". Below are some thoughts on the language used or touched upon in a Chronicle such as this and the respective possible meanings of certain words. Please comment if you wish. (the Chronicle will be posted on the site shortly)


Structure - the physical characteristic of the sculpture revealed through its construction. The ambition in ‘open sculpture’ is to reveal the entirety of this structure from all points. All parts which come into view as one moves around the work continue to reaffirm the initial structural ‘take’ - any surprise is not a contradiction but a further revelation. Structure is thus ‘discovered’ as the work is being made as opposed to form which is predetermined in the intentional use of it.


Form - Semantically speaking it could be argued that each piece of steel has a ‘form’, but form is really a counter-approach to open sculpture works as form would be an accrued structure made through the steel serving a ‘subordinate’ purpose rather than being the content generator through its articulation in space. Form makes the steel a “passenger”, structure makes it a “driver.”


Materiality - the appearance of the steel as a result of its handling. If the materiality is being noticed then the function of the steel to create a three-dimensionality is compromised. Its appearance rather than its role in the work is dominating. Steel can be seductive but that’s not enough. It's what it does in the work that counts.


Physicality - How the steel is handled through multifarious actions: cutting, bending, twisting and so on. This could be termed the ‘drawing’


Spatiality- How the steel relates to itself and how it cuts the air spaces throughout the work. The inter-relational qualities of the work are aiming to arrive at an expressive completeness through these relationships with no reference, inference or allusion to any external issues such as narratives , contexts or symbolism. 


Meaning - the significance of the expressiveness achieved in three-dimensions. There will be an inherent ambition in a work - an intent; this is honed, improved and increases in confidence as the work develops. Confidence promotes bolder decision making, a greater assuredness with one’s materials and a more exciting sense of scale emerges. 


Content - the amount of “Art” a work possess. Content cannot be predetermined. It comes through the ambition to make a work that is complete in and of itself. The degree of content will be dependant upon the intent, ambition, skill and invention in a work. Compare a run of the mill figurative portrait with a Rembrandt - the subject of a face is the same, the result is clearly not. It was not the figuration that made the content. If an abstract artwork seeks to allude to anything or lacks confidence in its decision making for example, then its content will be diminished relative to what it could have achieved. 


Time and movement - a better sculpture will compel a viewer to move and will not present itself through a series of ‘frozen moments’. Movement is a moot point in Art. Making work in which a complete ‘disinterested-ness’ is at play usually means one is constantly in flux checking and cross-checking the reality and relationships in a workthus shutting out any ‘regarding’ or ‘reverie-inducing wandering’. Wanting to move, dwell, inspect, scrutinise, shift focus, implies a richer experience in time. The summation of these experiences would ideally be a meaningful one and indicative of a ‘wholeness’.