Author: Charlotte Bearn

Making shapes: contemporary sculptures at Art Republic

Who said Art Republic only sells limited edition prints? If you like your art in three dimensions, we have some provocative sculptures on show, and we’re not referring to marble busts.

What is sculpture? Where did it start? Is it relevant to the contemporary art world or is 3D design just about history and public monuments? The short answer to that is: sculpture and sculpted forms have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, and continue to be integral to art today. Anyone who watched even a snippet of the recent BBC series Civilisations will know that some of the earliest, most mind-bending art was carved from tiny pieces of mammoth ivory more than 25,000 years ago.

From there, sculpting just got bigger, evolving with the art movements and tastes of each society – from Greek and Roman allegories to Michaelangelo’s David and Rodin’s The Thinker, Alexander Calder’s kinetic sculptures to Barbara Hepworth’s organic carvings and Rachel Whiteread’s monumental casts. We don’t really need to point out that that incredibly reductive list barely makes a dent in the back catalogue of marble/ bronze/ stone/ papier-mache/ found-object forms, or the vast number of creatives who made this their chosen medium throughout history and across continents.

So much of the world around us is formed in three dimensions, but as an art form sculpture can be confusing – even when we’re taught about it (briefly) at school, we initially encounter sculpture in two-dimensional formats, such as books and photos. And while that’s fine, in order to understand sculpture these forms really needs to be experienced in person. How do you ‘get’ sculpture or understand how it is made? You walk around it, touch it (if it’s not rigged with alarms!), peer closely at the details or stand at a distance to take in the whole form.

For that reason, at Art Republic we like encourage you to check out our sculptural pieces in person in the gallery. They may not be the same scale as some of the most famous pieces of sculpture out there – whether cool marble figures, carefully chiselled reliefs or surrealist bicycles – but the same rules apply.

Art Republic revealed one of our most recent examples of sculptural art as we launched our new, bigger gallery space; Magnus Gjoen’s ‘There Are Some Dead Who Are More Alive Than The Living.’ This was a project that we worked on closely with Gjoen, who is known for his highly decorative art prints that juxtapose the deadly and the beautiful. These themes are present in his sculptural work too – a porcelain skull decorated with a blue delftware-style pattern, which weaves around the cranium, combining the everyday with the ‘some day’ and confronting us with death and beauty simultaneously. Each of the numbered edition of 50 comes in a wooden presentation box, reminiscent of an archive or archeological crate, which creates an additional sense of the past and present colliding. When viewing it you can hold it in your hands, but do try not to go all Hamlet on us.

Making shapes: contemporary sculptures at Art Republic | Image

Speaking of the tug of war between beauty and death in art, you might also want to take a look at the carved glass sculptures of Born To Kiln, aka Jimmy South. The glass artist uses his work to provoke conversations around contemporary global and political issues – in particular violence and war. His free-blown glass pieces, which are cut, ground, polished and sandblasted into ammunitions-shaped objects, personify the delicate balance between war and peace, beauty and horror.

Making shapes: contemporary sculptures at Art Republic | Image

Take a closer look at ‘The Spoils’ – a handmade glass grenade form that’s filled with 22ct gold flecks, floating in distilled water. From a limited edition of 12, this weighty piece fits in the palm of your hand, but its weapon-based form and the glow of the gold from within the cut glass makes you stop to think about the message Born To Kiln wants to share. That’s just a taste of the power of sculpture.

Sculpture isn’t all heavy materials though. Just ask the Surrealists, Dadaists and Pop Artists (if you can get hold of one) who were more playful in their approach to sculpted forms. Yes, there were still motives and messages behind the work, but just look at Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures and, well, any of Marcel Duchamp’s creations and you can see part of the reason why they attracted attention: they were a world away from the traditional sculpted forms that came before them.

Artist Lucy Sparrow nods to this heritage – as well as to the work of Damien Hirst – in her Pop-Art-like cabinets. Fully stocked with soft, felt replicas of real objects with a toy-like quality, these 3-D pieces are actually Sparrows way of exploring human needs and desires, from sex to consumerism. Not quite what you expect when you first see the colourful pieces from a distance.

Making shapes: contemporary sculptures at Art Republic | Image

We are also in the final stages of a project with Brighton-based street artist Eelus, who has designed a special limited edition sculptural piece that will be launched at Art Republic very soon. Keep an eye on our emails and social media for more details. We can’t share the details with you just yet, but we can tell you that this sculpture series is very special – you won’t want to miss it.

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