Comments on: Brancaster Chronicle No. 2: Anthony Smart Sculptures Abstract Critical is a not-for profit company aiming to establish a new critical context for all generations of artists involved with ambitious abstract art. Sun, 09 Nov 2014 17:23:33 +0000 hourly 1 By: Sam Cornish Thu, 29 Aug 2013 09:32:34 +0000 I would say that your experience of the tree would not only not be compromised by those previous experiences or ideas but would be inevitably comprised of them. But already we are getting into imponderables – and I don’t think we have the tools to get out of them… We are just trading rhetorical questions.

I have already said that I have thought / sometimes do think that trying to see as sculpture or as structure might be more powerful, but that I have my doubts, certainly in the case of art which seems immediately to suggest wider resonances.

‘Right and proper to the public domain’ – does that mean that certain observations should not to be allowed? I still don’t understand how whatever is marvelous about the sculptures can only be accessed by ignoring particular qualities they have.

By: Robin Greenwood Thu, 29 Aug 2013 09:04:18 +0000 Sam, Robert,
What if your associations make the experience of the sculpture shallower; what if they clouded the experience? When you go out into the countryside and see a fantastic looking tree for the first time, does it have to remind you of the tree in your parents garden where you grew up for it to be meaningful? Does it have to be a metaphor for growth before it can be a rich and potent experience? Would not your real experience of that individual tree be compromised by such thoughts?

Maybe, rather than Robert’s suggestion of trusting yourself, you (and all of us) should make a greater effort to see abstract sculpture as sculpture, and trees as trees. Neither are ‘images’; nor, in fact, are they ‘structures’, which is yet another metaphorical interpretation. Both are real three-dimensional objects that can be either boring or extraordinarily marvellous. The focus of Brancaster Chronicles, in an attempt to deliver what is right and proper to the public domain, is to try to determine the extent to which Smart’s sculptures have achieved the latter.

By: Terry Ryall Wed, 28 Aug 2013 22:24:55 +0000 I wonder if Anthony Smart’s view of his Marshland pieces as ‘non-relational’ and his idea of total continuity could lead to an association of his work with, for example, Barbara Hepworth and some of her pieces carved from wood and stone. Her working of solid blocks could happily be described as ‘whole’, ‘non-relational’ and continuous, referring the viewer back to their internal, contained spaces but of course by the use of very different material means from Anthony Smart. Again this is just conjecture based only on the viewing of images.

By: Robert Linsley Wed, 28 Aug 2013 17:10:30 +0000 I think your description of the piece as having natural associations is reasonable, the more so as the title encourages it. The “subjective” element might be in your choice of the word “disturbed,” but I think that’s a perfectly legitimate response. You may be picking up on objective qualities not recognized by most of the audience. To quote Bob Dylan – if you’re looking for someone to trust, trust yourself.

By: Sam Wed, 28 Aug 2013 15:59:50 +0000 What I mean is that the sculptures resemble a tree or bush without foliage – I am looking at one as I type which has similar jerky transitions, a similar relation of scale between the extended superstructure to the smaller parts which make up the superstructure, a broadly similar silhouette; even without drawing such a direct comparison there is a sense of movement which appears organic (in this the sculptures seem to reach back 60 years to when these sorts of metaphors were very popular in abstraction / semi-figuration, chiefly in painting). The industrial element doesn’t come naturally from the material, but rather the quality of the steel as steel is highlighted by contrast because of the sense of near-orgnaic movement with which it is imbued.

I don’t think that the sculpture can be reduced to this resemblance, and nor do I think noticing it should discount them or that the sculpture would necessarily be better if it avoided this (which would seem a very dogmatic opinion). Of course the resemblance maybe (maybe) dispelled with further contact. But also I wouldn’t call it ‘subjective’ – no more so than it is subjective to point to a particular relation within the sculpture and say that it works when another one does not.

I say I don’t think it is subjective because, being to an extent versed in this type of sculpture, I do not immediately fall back on the ‘what does it look like’ question. Indeed I will in general try and resist any ‘seeing-in’ and think that this resistance is a powerful tool, granting greater access to a work of art; but I’m not always convinced by that this is the case – perhaps by willfully cutting off resemble something is lost? Would it not be a richer experience if both structure and ‘looking-like’ could be held simultaneously?

By: Robin Greenwood Wed, 28 Aug 2013 09:27:56 +0000 Could you explain what you mean by “images of a disturbed natural/industrial growth”, and perhaps say why you want to explore such a subjective metaphor? Is your “example” on behalf of the man on the Clapham Omnibus, or is it simply your own best effort?

By: Sam Wed, 28 Aug 2013 07:02:56 +0000 Though I can understand frustration at being asked to attend to a superficial viewer, the attempt to think what a viewer not deeply immersed in the welded steel sculpture tradition might think is perhaps not entirely invalid? (I suppose a desire to get away from the word literal tends in the same direction, though as I said before I think illusion does need to be attended to)

For example I think there is a definite figurative element to these sculptures. Not in their approximation to a figure, but as images of a disturbed natural/industrial growth (this is likely emphasised as I have only seen the Marshland sculptures in jpegs, though I thought something similar when I saw Tony’s last exhibition).

I fairly certain that this interpretation would not be welcome – I wonder what anyone who was actually present at the discussion thinks?

By: Patrick Jones Mon, 26 Aug 2013 16:01:39 +0000 The sculptures look really worth experiencing in the flesh and I hope for my own sake Anthony can get them to London,as theres no chance to get to Kings Lynn.And Anne/s painting too which has to be seen up close I suspect.Keep us posted!

By: Robin Greenwood Sun, 25 Aug 2013 15:25:24 +0000 Do we care about an audience that only gives “a glance, without sustained engagement”? They are more than adequately catered for elsewhere. Who gives a toss?

I would say that it is simplistic and premature to categorise these works as being in “the welded metal tradition”; and that steel is the only material capable of being articulated in real time to the extent required by their content. It’s not for the artist to compromise that for the sake of amusing a few artworld dimwits.

As for the old argument, notwithstanding Fried, I see literalism as fully accomodated by modernism – these days, the main thrust of it – rather than being at odds with it.

By: Robert Linsley Sun, 25 Aug 2013 13:00:57 +0000 The discussion of Anthony Smart’s work has shown it to have great formal interest. At least to me – from a distance. It may be unfair that my irritation with talk that rehashes the old literalism/art debate has sent things on a tangent. In any case, what I said about it should be lucid and clear to anyone.

I wonder, what could possibly interfere with the reception of this work? In front of a Smart, an average informed viewer is not going to rehearse the terms of Michael Fried’s argument. He or she is more likely to ask themselves:
-with all the material available to sculpture today, why mild steel?
-with all the procedures available today, why welding?
-why only the given colour?

I’m sure Anthony Smart has good reasons for everything he does, and I personally have no objection to any of those elements. But the accumulated effect of those decisions may be to make something that, at a glance, without sustained engagement, looks a tad old fashioned.

The old distinctions of relational/non-relational and literal/modernist recede and fade. Can sculpture in the welded metal tradition be seen freshly today?