Frank Bowling and Sculpture

In a new exhibition at The Stephen Lawrence Gallery, rare and previously unseen sculptural works from the iconic artist are brought to the fore

Frank Bowling, Angharad’s Gift Patagonia, 1991, Welded steel, 92 x 94 x 34 cm and Sasha’s Green Bag, 1988, Acrylic, acrylic gel, polyurethane foam and found objects on canvas with marouflage, 180.6 x 294.2 cm. © Frank Bowling, All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022. Courtesy the artist. Photographed by Anna Arca.

There is unlikely a more prominent or influential name in the world of art than Frank Bowling, a painter and sculptor born in Guyana and based in London. Renowned for his use of colour and experimentation, the former RCA grad – who studied alongside the likes of David Hockney and R. B. Kitaj – spent the next 60 years fine-tuning his medium, working his way to masterdom while developing a style that merges new materials and methodologies. From iconic Map Paintings to an artwork (named Tony’s Anvil (1975)) featuring pouring paint dripping down the canvas, perhaps his paintings are what Frank is best-known for. Little does the world know about his sculptural pieces, which is precisely what a new exhibition at The Stephen Lawrence Gallery opening on 15 July aims to address. In a conversation with curator Sam Cornish, we chat about Frank’s enduring influence, his pivotal works, and the reasons why his sculptures have remained in the shadow – until now. 

“Painting has to release certain sculptural aspects, but it also has to retain aspects of the sculptural to hold its own on the wall, in order for it to be a thing.” – Frank Bowling

Frank Bowling, Hrund, 1988, Welded steel, 84 x 122 x 40 cm. © Frank Bowling, All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022. Courtesy the artist. Photographed by Anna Arca

This is the first exhibition to focus on Frank’s sculptures. Why have these works been overlooked in the past?

Interest in Bowling’s art has risen vertiginously in the last decade or so. Inevitably there are lots of areas which haven’t been explored, especially given the peculiar complexities and contradictions of his art and attitudes. At the moment interest has been concentrated in his earlier work, his Expressionist pictures, his conflicted Pop paintings and, most significantly his Map Paintings; all areas open to sociological or political analysis. This is all well and good, and in line with the mood of the time, but I think there are lots of aspects of Bowling’s work that these approaches struggle with. Bowling’s making of sculpture has been fairly isolated, so naturally have taken a back seat. His paintings’ interactions with sculpture, or the idea of the sculptural, has been remarked upon before, but my project argues it has a much more central generative role within the trajectory of his work.

Frank Bowling, Lapwing Eye (Made in Japan), 2000, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 64.5 x 46 cm. © Frank Bowling, All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022. Courtesy the artist. Photographed by Anna Arca

Can you give some details into Frank’s relationship with sculpture? What defines his style and processes, and how did you want to represent this in the show?

We are showing seven steel sculptures by Bowling, which is probably about half he has ever made, and almost all that survived. Six were made between 1988 and 1991 and the seventh completed this year, for the exhibition. I relate his work in steel to Anthony Caro, to Cubism, to classical African Art and the art of the abstract artists of the early twentieth century of Russia and Eastern Europe. This mix of influences are handled playfully. Bowling makes a virtue of being an amateur, or at least occasional, sculptor: they do not have any tricks, but they do have a direct and in a sense surprising physicality. 

Frank Bowling, Bulbul, 1988, Detail, Welded steel. © Frank Bowling, All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022. Courtesy the artist. Photographed by Anna Arca

What comparison can be made between his sculptures and paintings?

There are many connections and overlaps. One is persistent interest in geometry, one of Bowling’s key concerns from the very beginning of his career. Bowling has commented that he turned to sculpture because he thought Colour Field Painting ‘lacked structure’. Geometry, whether used to determine the overall proportions of his paintings, or more physically present as a kind of substructure, has been crucial for Bowling to help him give his paintings a sense of order. There are a number of instances in the exhibition where similar geometric structures can be seen in painting and sculpture. 

Frank Bowling, Mummybelli, 2019, Acrylic, acrylic gel and found objects on collaged canvas with marouflage, 171.3 x 206.8 cm. © Frank Bowling, All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022. Courtesy the artist. Photographed by Anna Arca

How did you curate the show, what works did you seek to include? Can you pick out some highlights?

The 1988-91 sculptures chose themselves, although I was very pleased that Bowling had What Else Can You Put In A Judd Box completed, so it could be included. And we were very grateful to include a sculpture from a private collection. I could have kept the selection limited to paintings contemporary with the 1988-1991 sculptures, but I decided to include works from across the career, from 1960 until 2019. This gives a broader sense of the different ways his paintings have interacted with sculpture, which also creates an inherently more interesting, and I hope, exciting, display. 

Sentinel, one of Bowling’s Poured Paintings of the mid-70s is a highlight for me. But I also love Brooklyn III, which at first seems monochrome. The way Brooklyn III sits next to the very busy, object strewn and colourful surface of Mummybelli is something I am especially pleased with. The similarities outweigh the differences, which would be difficult to anticipate from photographs. I think the harmony is to do with light and the way a sense of underlying movement is contained by the overall rectangle. Of the sculptures, Angharad’s Gift Patagonia and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat are my favourites: I’ve looked at both many times before, but they feel very different in this exhibition. The rigour of Angharad’s Gift Patagonia is clearer in the gallery space, while there are a few elements of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat I hadn’t noticed before. I could go on, because all the works bring something special to the display.

Frank Bowling, King Crabbé, 1988, Welded steel, 68 x 50 x 30 cm. © Frank Bowling, All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022. Courtesy the artist. Photographed by Anna Arca

Any notes about the structure and pace of the exhibition itself? How do you hope the audience will experience it?

The exhibition space is divided roughly in half, with an upper and lower level, separated by a ramp and some partition walls, although with enough space left to easily look from one to the other. The paintings are hung visually, in dialogue with each other and the sculptures, rather than in chronological or thematic order. I wanted to mix large and small works, partly because of the spaces of the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, and partly because some recent displays of Bowling’s art have perhaps overemphasised literal monumentality. The movement from the very small incidents of colour and texture to very large panoramas is hugely important to Bowling’s paintings, so in a way it makes sense that his larger works can sit alongside his smaller. Obviously I had some hunches before I started about how the works would interact but I was pleasantly surprised at how many inter-connections there were, congruences of shape or structure, or materiality, even in a few instances, of colour. I would hope the viewers would pick-up on at least some of these and also notice things I haven’t.

Frank Bowling, Sasha’s Green Bag, 1988, Acrylic, acrylic gel, polyurethane foam and found objects on canvas with marouflage, 180.6 x 294.2 cm. © Frank Bowling, All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022. Courtesy the artist. Photographed by Anna Arca. Frank Bowling, King Crabbé, 1988, Welded steel, 68 x 50 x 30 cm. © Frank Bowling, All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022. Courtesy the artist. Photographed by Anna Arca. 

What’s the main goal with the show, what can the audience learn? 

I hope it’s more pleasurable than didactic. But I guess I want to impress upon people the complexity and range of Bowling’s interaction with sculpture. There has been a lot written about Bowling and landscape. I think that his more fundamental concern is with evoking human presence, and I would be pleased if that were communicated at some level.

Frank Bowling and Sculpture is at The Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich, London from 15 July – 3 Sept 2022. To coincide with the opening of the exhibition a new standalone monograph Frank Bowling: Sculpture has been published by Ridinghouse.

Frank Bowling, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, 1988, Welded steel, 75 x 72 x 65 cm. © Frank Bowling, All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022. Courtesy the artist. Photographed by Anna Arca.

Frank Bowling, What else can you put in a Judd box, 2022, Welded steel, 72 x 69.8 x 57.9 cm. © Frank Bowling, All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022. Courtesy the artist. Photographed by Anna Arca.

A Symbol of Love

Strength and resilience rise to the fore through the first major UK exhibition of artist Robert Indiana, currently on show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park 

Robert Indiana, LOVE (Red Blue Green), 1966–1998, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Arriving at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on a cloudless morning in March, it was strange to think that just days ago one of the worst storms in years had wreaked havoc here. The 500-acre park had lost three of its ancient trees; the grounds were left muddy and the branches bare. But, in a moment of respite, there was a refreshing sense of hope and resilience in the air, as well as the welcomed scent of spring exuded through the dozens daffodils sprouting from the earth.

Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, the park has been at the epicentre of contemporary sculpture for the past four decades. There are currently more than 80 works from major sculptors peppered amongst its grounds including Phyllida Barlow, Ai Weiwei, Joan Miró, Damien Hirst and Barbara Hepworth, with site-specific works from Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash and James Turrell. It’s a treasure trove for art lovers, nature enthusiasts and dog walkers alike; there’s something for everyone whether it’s a leisurely stroll, a picnic, a gawk at the 18th-century Bretton Hall estate, or to revel in the work of some of the world’s best-known sculptors. 

Robert Indiana, Exploding Numbers, 1964-66, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

There’s much to explore, not least in the park’s ongoing exhibition programme located in six indoor galleries and the outdoors. For 2022, the YSP opens the doors to the first major UK exhibition of American artist Robert Indiana, spanning 60 years of his magnanimous sculpting career with many works previously unseen. Additionally, there’s a selection of drawings by sculptor and land artist David Nash presented in The Weston Gallery and Bothy Gallery, while Yukihiro Akama’s miniature wooden houses are shown in the YSP Centre. A common denominator throughout it all is a profound feeling of love and strength, addressed through the key topics of the major exhibitions – that being politics and sustainability. This is oozed through the works entirely but most prominently at the entrance of the site, Indiana’s iconic Love (Red Blue Green) (1966-1998), stands proudly as if it were watching over us all, reminding us of one of the most universally felt emotions.

Clare Lilley, who’s recently been appointed the new director of YSP, spoke of the “incredible coincidence” of making this exhibition at this point in time. The moment she saw Love being installed at the park, for instance, she sobbed. The invasion of Ukraine had just been announced and – holding back her tears greatly – she remarks how “love is symbolic for the current world”. Love couldn’t be more symbolic or more pertinent, despite the fact that it was crafted decades ago. 

Robert Indiana, LOVE WALL, 1966-2006, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

The tone was set for the remainder of the day as Clare took us on a guided tour of the park, first beginning with Indiana’s outdoor structures allude to his fascination with the graphic, numerical form. “Numbers fill my life,” he stated, penned in the release. “They fill my life even more than love. We are immersed in numbers from the moment we’re born.” Heading indoors, we gazed at the surprisingly mixed-media works; brass pieces constructed to look like wood, earlier collage forms, or phallic columns addressing the impact of the AIDS crisis to name a few. Tracing six decades through 56 sculptures, we saw the artist’s practice in full swing as he depicted his own version of the American Dream – a darker one at that. Forging a connection between politics, society and art, Indiana’s momentous career has poked hard at the world for its discrimination of LGBTQIA+ communities and racism. It’s a hopeful reminder of love and unity. 

The day continued as we strolled through the luscious grounds, inhaling the fresh air and either avoiding or ingesting the Marmite pieces from Hirst in the nearby distance. David Nash was our next stop – a painterly depiction of our relationship with nature perceived through an evolving study of trees – before heading to witness James Turril’s Deer Shelter Skyspace, a moment of calm as we peaked through the cut out roof of an 18th-century Grade II Listed building (an old deer shelter). Swapping the foot for a sturdy Land-rover, the final steps of the day were observed through the window as the helpful guide navigated us through the on-site sculptures and artworks. A personal favourite being the biodegradable pavilion created by Studio Morison, where timber, thatch and compacted earth has been constructed to allow visitors in for a moment of peace and quiet. Eventually, the piece will fall in on itself and decompose. It’s a stark comment on the fragility of nature, echoed by the fallen trees and bent branches from the storm.

YSP is undeniably a tranquil setting, and the final moments of the day were with concluded with calm, wind-hit faces and an unanimous feeling of contentment. Consumed by nature-rich parklands and the evocative artworks on display, I couldn’t think of a more apt location for discussing themes of love, resilience and our relationship with the planet – a greater reflection of what’s happening in the world right now.

 

Robert Indiana: Sculpture 1958-2018 is on show at YSP’s Underground Gallery and Open Air between 12 March 2022-8 January 2023

Robert Indiana, American Dream # 5 (The Golden Five), 1980, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Robert Indiana, AMOR (Red Yellow), 1998-2006, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Robert Indiana, Ash, 1985, cast 2017, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Robert Indiana, Love Is God, 1964, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Robert Indiana, Monarchy, 1969, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Acid Coral Template

Tuomas A. Laitinen addresses important questions of ecology and climate change through a series of glass-made structures and installations

A Proposal for an Octopus, series, 2019. Photo: Jussi Tiainen

The octopus has earned a spot as perhaps one of the most visited subject matters in art. From 19th century Japanese erotica through to modern painting classics, the eight-armed sea creature has drawn many artistic practitioners in with its alluring symbology and anthropomorphic influences. Mysterious, intelligent, adaptable and fluid; the tentacled and unpredictable animal represents both wisdom and strategy. For instance, in the recent documentary My Octopus Teacher, we saw the ocean protagonist cover herself with shells to hide from impeding prey, outsmarting the sharks in an instant as she continued to poke her many legs into its gills. So it’s no wonder the octopus has caught the attention of artists and designers over the years, with Tuomas A. Laitinen being the most recent – an artist who works across video, sound, glass, algorithms, plus chemical and microbial processes.

In his most recent body of work Tuomas merges the line between art and science, weaponising materiality and craft to take a crystallised view at the world of ecology – that which is done so through octopus-shaped glass structures and compositions. The work, named Acid coral template, has been presented at the inaugural Helsinki Biennial this year, and he’s also recently been commissioned by Daata to create an AR artwork for the launch of the platform’s AR app – a continuation of what was first commissioned by Daata in 2020. “I had been researching protein crystallography for a few years and started to think about how I could translate this data in my work,” he tells me. “In that video work, I used the protein models to create these very baroque body augmentations for the animated characters in the video.” Simultaneously, at the time of making, Tuomas was working on coral growth simulations and eventually these two worlds collided. “The protein model for this particular coral is based on the Yersinia Pestis (plague) bacterium. So there is a weird fictional metamorphosis woven into the fabric of the work. A bacterium becomes a speculative coral. It’s not really about representing the data as such but making an interpretation, a translation, or a transmutation of it and consequently placing it into new environments through AR.”

PsiZone, 2021. Installation view, Helsinki Biennial

Tuomas grew up in a small Finnish town, a place known the centre point for glass production in Finland and in the 20th century. He started working on his installations as a teenager using junkyard materials and scraps, “so that was my fist touch to art, even though there were no such categories in my mind then,” he says. After a stint in music, Tuomas decided to attend art school and pursued his studies at Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, which is where his love of sound, moving image, 3D animation, light and installation first bloomed; his debut glassworks were created around 10 years ago and “were basically custom lenses for a camera”, while his first augmented reality piece was borne in 2016. Now living in Helsinki, he often works with various artists and researchers to question the role of ecology and production, often employing a profound mix of translucent materials such as glass and chemicals, as well las microbial processes and algorithms. 

For the last five years, Tuomas has turned his focus onto the eight-legged creature and its home: the coral reef. “I’ve been making glass sculptures for octopuses as an attempt to find ways to think with these extraordinary lifeforms and, on a larger scale, ocean ecosystems. The octopus started to feel like a relevant conductor for opening up various ecological questions, providing a tentacular and modular model for organising ideas and artworks: ‘nine minds’ in one body. There is always a core brain there, but the structure allows a certain decentralisation to happen.” In a wider context, Tuomas strives to question ecology but also to touch upon the various mythologies that are attached to it, “and ideas coming from processes of knowledge production.” He adds: “And in some way, an element of cli-fi and sci-fi is present in the entanglements of my work – especially climate fiction, where the weather or the ecosystem is often seen as a protagonist. The current path in my work started in 2010 when I discovered some key texts from feminist new materialist theorists. That moment presented a major shift in perspective, and it is still affecting a lot of my work.”

Haemocyanin, 2019. Still from the video

And now, when thinking about the relationship between ecology and sustainability, it’s universally thought of as a delicate and necessary relationship. Conserving the earth’s waters, soil and ecosystem is vital in order to remain harmonious with the environment and the incoming – or better yet the present – affects of climate change. Tuomas’ work not only proves the impact of art when it comes to raising awareness of climate change, but that it’s a an aesthetic reminder of how fragile the natural world can be, where with just a shudder, slap or bash it can break it into tiny fragments. 

“For me, the idea of ecology is something that emerges from being sensitive to processes of mutual coexistence,” he explains. “When I think of ecology, I often come back to the notion of overlapping symbiotic processes and questions of biodiversity. At the level of making art, it means that individual works (like this coral reef) emerge out of an extensive world building or thought process rather than clearly defined project boundaries. A certain bundle of actions and reactions allows a specific outcome or a life form to appear, and I think that this is a sort of a parable of an ecological process. Feminist theorist Deboleena Roy talks about this notion of ‘feeling around for the organism’ in her book Molecular Feminism, and it’s been one of the important reminders on how to look for kinship with other-than-human lifeforms. And then, on another scale, as a citizen concerned with environmental issues, I am trying to find ways to support youth climate actions, but on an artistic level, it’s all about these subtle differences and tentative approaches.

It seems to me that understanding different scales and the resulting perspective shifts are quite crucial tools in relation to thinking about ecological transformations.”

A Proposal for an Octopus, series, 2019. Photo: Jussi Tiainen

Protean Sap, 2020. Stills from the video

The Same Sea

Port takes a trip to the Finnish island of Vallisaari for the Helsinki Biennial 2021

©Matti Pyykko, Helsinki Biennial

A group of 330 islands conjugate around the coastline of Helsinki, establishing an untrammelled and easy getaway from the humdrum of city life. It’s normal for locals to boat around here, whether that’s in lieu of the sauna, work or heading home from the mainland. Life in the Finnish capital feels serene, and the calm streets of the more urban environments – free from any queues – only solidifies this as a place where happiness, nature and the environment matter above anything else. 

While leaving the port of Helsinki on a refreshingly crisp day – the locals explained it was unusually cold for the time of year – that’s when I first caught sight of the many tiny islands, most of which are decorated with a wooden hut or left untamed and completely wild. Some are homes, others are summer houses or places to soak up the heat of the sauna. Then there’s the rocks, poking out of the water with abnormally smooth edges; they sink into the sea bed with little effort, windswept and altered by the tectonic shifts of the surface below. It took a mere 20 minutes to arrive at our destination of Vallisaari, an enchanting island and home of the Helsinki Biennial – an event presented by Helsinki Art Museum (HAM), directed by Maija Tanninen-Mattila, and curated by Pirkko Siitari and Taru Tappola.

Making its debut on the island with 41 artists from Finland and across the globe, the biennial’s new location is a land that’s diverse and rich in its formation. Few people could have entered Vallisaari a handful of years ago, due to it being used as a military base for the Russian Army – the remnants of which are still astonishingly present today. With a title of The Same Sea, the works involved in the biennial’s festivities reflect on the island’s history, as well as the interconnectedness and dependence that the world has on its oceans. With the climate at the fore, this is highlighted immediately as you board the island, where visitors are stunned by the confrontational work of Finnish artist Jaakko Niemelä’s Quay 6 (2021) a large, red structure that cups the shore line as it explicitly denotes the impending threat of rising sea levels. Below, I round up a few key highlights from the event, consisting of sculpture, sound and installation that each reflect on our climate emergency. 

Jaakko Niemelä: Quay 6, 2021 ©Maija Toivanen/HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2021

Jaakko Niemelä: Quay 6 (2021)

Designed as the island’s greeting, Jaakko’s installation has been construed of scaffolding, painted wood structures, water pipe and pumps. Commenting on the drastic effects of climate change and how the rising sea levels will greatly affect our lands and civilisation, the alarming piece directs its focus onto the melting of Greenland’s northern ice sheet; if it were to disappear in entirely, then sea levels will rise to six metres – the height of the structure.

Teemu Lehmusruusu: House of Polypores, 2021 ©Maija Toivanen/HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2021

Teemu Lehmusruusu: House of Polypores (2021)

A hybrid of natural processes, research and sound, the Helsinki-based artist’s installation is given anthropomorphic qualities as it listens to decaying trees before converting the noise into music. The work is likened to an instrument made of soil, and visitors are invited to touch and place their ears onto the large tubular structures to listen to its deep and vibrating hum. There are four structures in total, each of which is crafted from mushrooms, electronics and decaying wood. 

Margaret & Christine Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring: Helsinki Satellite Reef, 2021 ©Maija Toivanen/HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2021

Margaret & Christine Wetheim: Crochet Coral Reef, The Helsinki Satellite Reef (2021)

The world’s coral reefs are depleting, suffering greatly from pollution and heat exhaustion as a result of climate change. This handmade crochet piece, crafted by two LA-based sisters, is a passionate response to the matter; it reflects on the long process of building the sculptures as well as the lack of time that animals (and the reefs) have on our planet. The project has travelled to New York, London, Riga and Abu Dhabi in engaging with more than 10,000 participants; the sisters will also work with local Finnish communities to crochet a reef in Helsinki.

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: FOREST (for a thousand years…), 2012 ©Maija Toivanen/HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2021

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: Forest (for a thousand years…) (2021) 

In a calming corner of the island’s woodland, an immersive sound installation encourages its visitors to perch on tree stumps as they listen to various sounds: aircrafts flying above, birds, explosions and choir song. The Canadian artists’ work comments on the sounds that a forest will hear in a lifetime and, in this case, the different points in history for Vallisaar. Its listeners are exposed to yelling, screaming and gun fire, but equally they are connected to the trees around them, personifying nature as a delicate and fragile entity. 

Lutfi Janania

The Honduran-born botanical artist creates objects and sculptures coined from the natural world

The Central American country of Honduras is rich in flora. So immense that it runs miles, canopied amongst mangroves, cloud forests and long lines of coast stretching across the Caribbean Sea, to the north, south and Pacific Ocean. It’s marked by high and rainy mountainous slopes of the country’s highlands, dense in oak-pine forests and delicious woodlands that spreads for valleys upon valleys. Yet despite its vast occupancy of luscious lands and lively fauna that inhabit it, Honduras has also undergone some dramatic environmentalist issues. This includes the loss of soil fertility and soil erosion, plus the depletion of forests where trees have been harvested for lumber, firewood and land. Its fragility is only increasing, but it’s also these very pines, leafs and flowers that serve as a delectable backdrop and inspiration for one particular artist working today, Lutfi Janania.

Lutfi is a Honduran botanical artist who was raised amongst the rainforest and mountains of San Pedro Sula. After emigrating to New York City, the artist was in search of a new utopia – one comparatively different to the green facades of his upbringing. And, in doing so, he started working in the fashion industry whereby he learned about construction, colour and texture; the key elements to his work now. A few design roles later, and he finally ventured out on his own as a stylist, working on editorials and employing the use of flowers within the backdrops and more subtle accents of the shoots. This is the moment when he realised he’d found his utopia, or better yet his “passion for creating fantasy through experiences that could be harnessed through botanical design,” he tells me. Naturally, this led to the launch of his own design studio, Rosalila, during which he works with botanicals to build objects, sculptures and installations.

Corallia. Shot by: Maksim Axelrod

“I live for the idea of creating a fantasy, transforming a dream into reality,” he continues, noting how this was fully harnessed once he’d moved to the USA. “I imagine it as materialising an enchanting and otherworldly environment and the creatures that live in it.” Through freshly cut tropical plants used in installations through to various assortments of trimmings and flowers, Rosalia is indeed a “fun, flirty, exotic yet very elegant” outlet for his goals and view of the world. “Think of that sensation when taking in the lively rays of sun in the tropical beaches of Honduras while holding a delicious spicy margarita in your hand.”

Lutfi’s reasons for venturing into the field of botanicals stems wholly from his past. His familial home, for instance, is located on a nature preserve, built by his grandfather amongst the wild forest. Describing the environment as being “literally Jurassic in size”, Lutfi had the entire ecosystem at his fingertips. “The trees tower over my house and provide habitat for a variety of tropical birds and giant variegated monsteras, and other plants which climb and drape all over their entirety. Coming of age in such company really shaped my understanding of colour texture and light.”

The typical compositions of a forest tend to be centralised, as the plants reach for the light in their journey to photosynthesise. Lutfi’s work, however, completely defies the laws of gravity, and of the rainforest for that matter. He relies steadily on light, weight, balance and, of course, gravity, to stretch and spread his pieces to achieve questionable angles. Reaching branches are paired with dried florals, “which seem to simultaneously bloom and weep”, while curved woods and obscure silhouettes are formed through the skill of finding stability within his striking sculpture pieces. It’s an art form in itself.

Looking inwards, and beyond the outer layer of wildness and beauty, you’ll notice how Lutfi’s structures are more than just a display of expansive nature. He picks his materials depending on the stories that they speak, especially those that tell tales of their homelands. “And because of my upbringing in the bioreserve of Honduras, my relationship and experiences with the natural world have led my inspiration to be often rooted in nature,” he explains, weaponising both permanent and sustainable objects in order to reach the studio’s environmentally conscious goals. “At Rosalila, we have a conscious practice; we don’t believe in a wasteful way of designing. We repurpose our materials, pushing their limits and boundaries.” 

Leafy Sea Dragon. Shot by: Leon Hernandez

The Leafy Sea Dragon sculpture embodies this entirely, as its’ construed of hand-preserved botanicals, manzanita wood branches and crystals. “The piece explores negative space, grandeur and fantasy with an emotional connection,” adds Lutfi, who collaborated with a family-owned fabricator in Queens to create the Italian rainforest marble base, and a Brooklyn-based metalworker in Brooklyn to weld the brand stand, before adding in the botanical work crafted by the studio. It’s an immeasurable piece with strands and spikes alluding to the ever-growing quality of nature; punches of pinks are tossed amongst the desolate, earthy tones of the environment, causing a fiery juxtaposition of fertility and sterility that plausibly takes a stand against the dwindling lands of the rainforest.

All of Lutfi’s pieces encompass a myriad of materials, be it marble, quartz, brass, manzanilla wood, curly vines and hand-preserved botanicals. And through the marriage of the man-made and natural, his pieces are greatly provocative. “My desire is to convey emotions, feelings and sensations and the dualities in them,” he shares on a final note about the work’s impact. “When compiled together, these vignettes with crooked leaves generate sorrow, curiosity, anticipation and longing. In stirring such emotions, the environment begins to take shape and the life within the work becomes evident. The dried, dehydrated material is not just preserved, it’s persevering and actively creating. What appears to be dead is very much alive.”

Portrait in front of sculpture. Shot by: Ricardo Rivera
The Mirror. Housed by: @Ashya.co. Shot by: @equatorproductions
Corallia. Shot by: Maksim Axelrod

Plastic Ocean

Dutch photographer Thirza Schaap has long been foraging plastics from our ocean, and now she’s collated her findings into a new book

Japonais

The world is at a tipping point, and no longer can we continue to litter our seas, earth and air with the debris of our human existence. In 2018, for example, the United National Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a warning stating that we have only 12 years to prevent the catastrophic impacts of climate change, which includes an increase of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius. We’re now in 2021, and there’s less than a decade on the clock. We’ve already seen the 20 of the hottest years on record; there’s been an increase in adverse weather and wildfires; we’re in the midst of a mass species extinction; and our oceans are at great risk too. So much so that a truckload of plastic enters the ocean every single minute, while the UK supermarkets produce 800,000 tonnes every year – and counting. 

Dutch photographer Thirza Schaap has long been drawing a lens on these issues. To such lengths, that for the last eight years, she’s been collecting trash from beaches along the coast of South Africa, turning the washed up plastic items into remarkable pieces of art. Aptly named Plastic Ocean, her ongoing project has now been formed into a new book by 1605 Publishers. Within its pages, observers can become witness to a wide-spanning collection of still lives and sculptures, and art that’s been crafted from discarded bottles, shopping bags, toothbrushes and straws. 

Fatal Flowers

It all started a few years ago as she headed to her local beach with her dog, quickly to realise the abundance of rubbish flooding the shores. Picking up the aftermath of human consumption, there was something about the plastic formations in their masses that inspired her to start taking things further. “Astonished by what I found in a disgusted way,” she says, “I was touched by the beauty of the objects I’d found. They looked faded, old, worn by the sea and I presumed they’d travelled for a long time in the ocean.” Thirza knew she wanted to share her findings with others, and to “tell the story which is often hidden by the myth of recycling,” she adds, stating how only 10% of the plastic is recyclable. Shockingly, half of the world’s plastic is designed for single use, for it to then be tossed away like an afterthought. And this equates to around 79% of waste ending up in landfills, dumps or in the natural environment. Just 12% of it gets incinerated.

The realities of our polluted planet fuels both the creative and activist side of Thirza. She now has such a vast collection of rubbish, that she keeps it all stowed away in an archive for when the idea for a new piece arises. “I’ve collected so much that I can work from an idea and source from my storage. We go on plastic hunts to desolated beaches, which is where I find the old ‘long travelled’ objects and pieces. On the tourist beaches, I usually find ‘yesterdays trash’. Unbelievably, people still bring food and drinks, consume everything and leave it on the beach.”

Divine

Within Plastic Ocean, the audience are granted access into Thirza’s world of advocacy, pining and promoting for a better (and cleaner) world. It collates pieces from across the entirety of her project, including the “early shadow play” and more graphic photographs, right through to her more recent sculptural ensembles. Working closely with her publisher to edit and select the pieces involved in the book, they’d decided to proceed with an experimental approach to the layout, where repetition and colour palettes drove the overall feel of the publication. 

For example, in two pieces named Oxygen and Oxygen en Boubou, you’ll see both images paired for their spindly compositions and beige, muddy hues – both of which are built with disused plastics. The first is a cigarette tree, composed from butts found on the beach. Oxygen en Boubou, on the other hand, is a sculptural piece built on a table outside and under some trees. “While I was making it, a Boubou bird (a large robin) came to sit on me. I love birds and was so taken aback by it, that I hadn’t realise the bird took the small bits of plastic for food. I felt so bad, but I literally saw what happens in the ocean; when a fish mistakes plastic for its food, or a bird feeds on the beaches.”

Boubou

There are numerous stories to be told from Thirza’s creations. Another is Cloack, a piece created after witnessing an octopus disguising itself with shells in the film My Octopus Teacher, shot near the bay in Western Cape of South Africa. “She was picking them up and placing them rapidly on her body to hide form the Pyama shark. This movie haunted me for weeks and that is why I made this sculpture of a bottle hiding in its cloak of shells.”

However, these harsh and tearful stories are told in notes of soft pastels, earthy greens and crisp white backdrops. It’s quite the contrast to your typical display of rubbish and climate change activism, and Thirza hopes to draw her audience in with these juxtapositions – that of beautiful imagery sat inline with ugly, disregarded plastics. Although most of all, she hopes that this will raise awareness to the catastrophic effects of our polluted ways. It’s an ethos that’s never been more vital. “I believe we are ready for a change but we need to unite and work together,” she concludes. “As we have proven during the pandemic, it is possible to do so, we just need to see the agency of the plastic problem.”

Thirza Schaap’s Plastic Ocean is available to purchase here

Oxygen
Crime Passionnel
Cloak
Bondage
Honey

100 Sculptors of Tomorrow

In a foreword to the new book from Thames & Hudson – 100 SCULPTORS OF TOMORROW – art historian, critic and curator Richard Cork charts sculpture’s changing place in the art world

It’s Tulio Pinto, Nadir No. 8 (2014), Steel Ladder, Glass, Rope and Stones

For too long, sculpture was in danger of losing its prominence as a major art form. The classical tradition, celebrated at London’s British Museum by the Athenian marble carvings from Lord Elgin’s collection, became regarded as a stifling exemplar of academic predictability. At the beginning of the twentieth century, rebellious young modernists wanted to escape from the hallowed world of dignified, anatomically idealised figures posing on plinths or embellishing grandiose buildings. Sculpture was overshadowed by experimental painting, though artists as audacious as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso sometimes explored the potential of three-dimensional forms while pursuing their primary commitment to mark-making on canvas.

So did Marcel Duchamp. His defiant exploration of ready-made objects – a bicycle wheel, a bottle rack, the highly provocative urinal – opened up immense new possibilities for radical sculptors. By the end of the twentieth century, sculptors felt free to deploy an extraordinarily wide, unpredictable range of materials in their work. And now, as this book attests with such vigour, the sculptors of tomorrow refuse to be constrained in any way by traditional approaches. The old idea that bronze was the ideal medium no longer plays any part in their thinking. Instead, they are not afraid to use alternatives as fragile as glass.

Nathan Mabry, Heavy Handed (2013), Weathering Steel, 210x150x120cm

Sculpture used to be considered a fundamentally ‘tough’ activity, lauding bodily perfection. But practitioners in the 21st century are increasingly preoccupied with vulnerability. Damaged or shattered images play a central role in sculpture now. Even at its most monumental, poignant notions of fragility and loss often lurk inside a work, vividly reflecting the widespread instability and sudden, unpredictable violence threatening the world we inhabit today.

Caronline Achaintre, Mad Cap (2017), Hand Tufted Wool, 270x204cm

Nor is sculpture still regarded as an exclusively male activity. During the twentieth century, practitioners like Barbara Hepworth and Louise Bourgeois broke through this sexist barrier and proved that outstanding, adventurous three-dimensional pieces could be created by women. They fought the dismissive hostility of indignant defenders of sculpture as a manly pursuit, and today such prejudice is regarded as an aberration of the past. Female practitioners are abundantly represented throughout this book, and play a crucial role in widening the possibilities of present-day sculpture.

Sebastian Neeb, Trophy For Being Where Everyone Else Is (2017), Gilded Ceramic, Stone, Veneer, Martble, Plywood, and Car PAint, 65x31x31cm

Restrictive national boundaries have likewise been torn down. Plenty of artists now live and work in locations far removed from the countries where they grew up. Their determination to roam around enriches the work they produce and increases the stimulating dialogue between sculptors across the world. Leafing through the pages of this book, we soon realise that an astonishing array of possibilities are now playing a part in sculpture. Far from being confined by narrow, defensive and pedantic rules, its potential seems limitless, and certain to play a continually challenging role in the art of the future.

Zadie Xa, Bio Enhanced_Hiero Advanced The Genius of Gene Jupiter (2018), Hand Sewn and Machine Stitched Assorted Fabrics with synthetic hair on bamboo, 166x170cm

100 SCULPTORS OF TOMORROW by Kurt Beers is released September 2019 by Thames & Hudson

Lonely Mountain: Dwyer Kilcollin

The assistant curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris reflects on why the American artist’s work is an unintentional, but substantial departure from the mainstream

the earth was without form, and void;

and darkness was upon the face of the deep

(Gen 1:2)

The work of American artist Dwyer Kilcollin is an outstanding phenomenon in the world of contemporary sculpture. Devoid of any cultural references (at least, clearly visible ones) to art history or stylistic references to the big names of today (Gormley, Kapoor, Koons), it sets itself apart from the post-conceptual moment and its techniques, like the use and glorification of new technologies and synthetic materials, intensive use of texts, everyday objects, screens, the Internet. Kilcollin, instead, works with her hands and uses traditional materials like sand, stone and metal. Also departing from mainstream art’s problematics:  sex, gender, social justice, race, minorities, politics, irony; Kilcollin’s work is, nevertheless, placed at the pulsing heart of contemporaneity – in the deepest sense of this term. Taken up consecutively by Nietzsche, Roland Barthes and Agamben: the contemporary is something asking the deepest, the sharpest and the most painful questions about human existence (what Heine and Dostoyevsky have called damned or final questions), impossible to answer from the conjunctures and affairs of the current day; thus, the contemporary is necessarily inopportune, anachronistic, standing on the banks of the river of time – not floating down the river.

Another point to Kilcollin’s unintentional, but substantial departure from mainstream art is that her work is, technically, not conceptual: it is not a commentary nor a theoretical, political or emotional message that can be verbalized, but rather something radically anti-logocentric, an echogram of her unconscious. Randomly focusing on everyday objects and amorphous substances, embodied with techniques, materials and varying archival methods, her work cannot be explained in terms of causal relationships; while some of the sounds that the human organism produces are recognisable and able to be estimated, like a heartbeat or breathing, healthy or sick, some of the others, audible as well, are not. This peculiarity both substantially complicates interpretation of her works and makes them particularly attractive, as with everything unrecognisable and beautiful – a curious shell, leaf or stone.

Emergent object works, 2014, ongoing

Like a stalactite-covered in a cave or ancient pillar, Kilcollin’s Column, made of natural, ascetic dark-coloured sand, having a quasi-ruined and scratchy surface, handcrafted out of stone and resin, reminds us of something solid and elemental. The second part of its title Capital indicates the source of Kilcollin’s inspiration: The Capital, the title of Marx’s treaty and the organising principle of the global economic system. And just as capitalism has its own dark sides, the opposite side of the column is empty, like a hollowed tree trunk – an elegant ‘trompe-l’œil’ and ingenuous allegory, applicable far beyond economy.

Sand, the principal material from which Kilcollin’s sculptures are made, corresponds the most to her reflections and intuitions on the substance: the ruins of ancient rocks, dust, the distant future of every piece of stone, a pile, rejection of structured form, symbol of the impermanence of all things, the companion to flowing time. Thus, to give form to a mass of sand, kneading it, is to fight and try to overturn the inexorable law of decay and entropy, to heal, to give sense to the senseless and the material realisation of an idea – a very natural, implicitly liturgical gesture ­– substantially antithetic to dissection as the base method of contemporary art where superficial irony and swagger has a tendency to be its dominant tonality. According to Plato – of whom Kilcollin is an avid reader and with whom she shares a sensibility towards the material world, as well as to the profession of Demiurge, Plato’s most prominent creature – the idea is a pure, immaterial and impeccable form pre-existing any material realisation, rather than the perceived “meaning” of any object. Kilcollin masters this subtle distinction (whether intellectually or intuitively) quite literally, by means of uneven surface and demonstrates how a form transitions from immaterial to material; at the last moment, achieving its smooth surface – a process, spectacularly demonstrated in 1999 horror film The Mummy, where Imhotep, one of the main characters, rapidly transforms from a pile of sand and bones into the attractive man he once was.

The Bouquet is a rough, pulsing structure, a chaotic conglomeration of layers, partially coloured in variegated ultramarine brush strokes, reminiscent of a stalactite, a bouquet, or a coral-reef with a labyrinth of microscopic corridors and caves to gaze at. As we gradually move away, it acquires dynamic movement and visual grandeur, turning into a hurricane funnel. The biconical main body of the sculpture is deformed and extended by a side spout, an elongation, a few petrified flower stalks providing it a second fulcrum, distributing between them the heavy visual weight of a sculpture and allowing the viewer’s eye to glide over it like a roller coaster. At the end of this elongation, a delightful surprise awaits: an anthropomorphic, energetic and playful (extremely unusual for Kilcollin) rounding, like the strained arch of a dancer’s foot. In this graceful piece, an equation between form and formlessness, dynamics, statics and angles of view is composed and solved. An elfin, irrational, highly sensitive psychometrical perception of the material world – light, texture, form, movement, ability to detect subtle visual weirdness and ambiguity, vulnerable and ephemeral beauty are the driving forces behind Kilcollin’s work. It makes her sculptures engaging and profound, revealing the hidden potential and natural beauty of forms and materials, but also, perhaps unintentionally, providing us with a deeper insight into the artist herself.

THE VIEW, Part I: the hillside

Kilcollin’s magnum opus is a massive table. One for dining or negotiating and filled with 4 bottles, glasses covered in centuries-old dust; the ruins of a city, its skyscrapers and downtown; and from bird’s eye view: a catafalque. Instilling anxiety, the sculpture asks the questions: Why is it deprived of any human presence? Why are its form, texture and colour so disturbingly brutal? A few blots – blue, red and white – emphasize its concrete achromatism. This sculpture brings a viewer to the point either before the beginning or after the end, to the extremities of time when man is non-existent and powerless. Made from fragile sand, this table is a fleeting mirage appearing to an exhausted pilgrim in the wilderness of the desert, imitating the form of its dunes – the false promise of satiated hunger; its surface is scratched and unfit for dining, there are no chairs, and nobody is going to sit. In its simple, crude and brutal form this sculpture poses a direct question about human existence, about happiness, oblivion and loneliness. A mighty, stoical, monological noumenon, it reminds us just how cold it can be to stand in the wind of being.

Art and Design: Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance

Port speaks to the award-winning designer about the intersection of art and design in his work, and his latest project with Ligne Roset

Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance took an unorthodox route into design. Having initially trained in sculpture in Paris before starting creating furniture and interiors, he rose to prominence after being chosen as Designer of the Year by Maison & Objet in 2007 and has designed pieces for leading brands such as Hermes, Dior and the French lifestyle-design brand Ligne Roset, as well as interiors, such as at Sketch in London, where he was artistic director. With his work not restricted to one form or material, Duchaufour-Lawrance seeks to re-model and modernise existing templates, and he has become known for the variety and contemporary feel of his pieces.

Here, he talks to Port about the possibilities of design, why he’s not an industrial designer and his new sofa for Ligne Roset.


How does your training in sculpture come to inform your work as a designer? Why did you move away from sculpture towards something more functional?

Sculpture is very open, very free, and it has given me a certain sense of freedom in my work. I learned not to be limited to certain techniques or particular aspects of the production process, and it’s allowed me to go from one field to another without being limited by a lack of imagination. There is a French word for that, plastician – someone who can work with a variety of skills without having an exact knowledge of any of these. I’m not an architect, but I know how to design a volume and the sensation of a space, as well as the material I want to use and the goal I want to achieve. I just don’t know exactly the specifics of how you can build this or that.

I moved from that to creating functional objects, and it was interesting because it pushed me to consider the boundaries of function and abstraction. Yet, because of my lack of formal training, perhaps I have less technical skills and I’m less interested in the pure industrial aspects of design. I’m not fascinated by a coffee machine, for example. I think that the object is not limited to these technical elements. Furniture in a way is much more poetic and sensible than a pure industrial project. With furniture, we have to create things for people which have to be used and create a strong relationship with a person.

Where do you take your influences from?

When I was young I had a limited access to sculpture because I was growing up in a small village in Brittany, but my mother was a professor of art, so my main introduction to sculpture and art was through books.

I remember one of the first books I saw was of Andy Goldsworthy. He really impressed me in his work because there is a strong relation with the context, he is using only what he finds, and there is respect in his interaction with nature.

Your work has been quite varied, but is there a consistent approach that you have to your different projects?

I’m not an industrial designer because, to me, it doesn’t mean anything to produce an object. To re-do an object which is already there in so many various forms doesn’t mean anything. So I try to ask myself what we are going to give through the object. That’s very hard to know, but what I’m trying to do is see how the object I’m designing interacts with the user, how we can create this relation which is based on a sensual, or sensitive, interaction with the objects.

With Sintra specifically, how did that project begin? What were the initial ideas you had for it?

That was not at all about sculpture and an idea of an abstract environment, it was much more about Ligne Roset who were looking for this kind of project – an object which took its roots from a classic sofa. The question was how can we use these shapes and codes which people know about with the sofa, but integrate them into something more contemporary and progressive. There was a duality to the project, aiming to create something timeless – both modern and classic.

I found the starting point for the form in classical shapes, such as sofas from the 1940s, and then we moved to these deeper, more generic sofas – the kind which are made for country houses. We took all this language and re-appropriated it – thinking about how these traditional signs can become something with more tension, and more graphic strength.

It was also important to work for Ligne Roset because I designed this for them, not for somebody else. That’s why I talk about the context of a piece, because I want to have this very strong relation with the people I’m working with. We have to understand each other, to speak the same language and to have the same view, otherwise it’s going to be compromise.

ligne-roset.com

Sadie Clayton

The inimitable fashion designer on innovation, representing a diverse vision of modern Britain and pushing the boundaries of design

In the history of style there are a handful of fashion designers whose work goes far beyond the parameters of attire and moves into the realm of high art; McQueen, Galliano and Gaultier being perhaps the most obvious of the avant-garde vanguard. However, it is worth noting that what those names share in common is the fact that their groundbreaking aesthetic provocations punctuated a very narrow and clearly delineated mainstream – theirs was a time that existed before the information avalanche and tortuous art directed hashtag distractions of the social media landscape. In the current paradigm, punctuating the dizzying multiplicity of cultural streams to genuinely stand apart and be noticed is no easy feat, which is why the British designer Sadie Clayton is a genuinely inspiring 21st century figure.

Born in Yorkshire to mixed race parents, Sadie is earmarked to become the Westwood of her generation. It is testament to her unique aesthetic that she was chosen by the Department of International Trade to represent Britain at this year’s AltaRoma festival in Rome, a distinctive niche in the fashion calendar presided over by the legendary Sylvia Venturini Fendi. It’s a hopeful sign in an era in which right-wing ideologies seem to be on the rise across Europe that the chosen representative of the UK is a plain-speaking, no-nonsense northern woman unafraid of challenging fashion industry clichés.

Suffice to say, her show at Villa Wolkonsky, the residence of the British Ambassador in Rome, celebrated profound diversity on the runway. A beautiful, striking black woman rolling down the runway in a wheelchair provided stark opposition to the more common albino-skinned waifs in the fashion firmament. Given her penchant for provocation and punk positivism, it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that fashion is just one spark of Clayton’s fiery creative vision, and that her ambition is nothing short of boundless. We caught up with her after the show at Villa Wolkonsky to discuss her enthusiasm for conceptual innovation and to find out why fashion should be leading the charge for equality.

Was there any particular thing as a child that inspired you to want to create?

I grew up in a society where I was very much in a minority being mixed race. I looked very different to my friends, so had the choice to either follow cultural stereotypes or embrace who I was, have fun with it and take advantage of my cultural fusion. The decision to take the route of individuation began at a young age – I’d buy fabric from Ikea and make a dress by draping fabric on a mannequin, jazzing it up by adding buttons from my very large vintage buttons collection. Back then, as now, everybody wore the same clothes, and followed the same trends, but I wanted to wear avant-garde interesting clothing and create my own trends, so studying fashion and moving to London and creating my own label was a way to actualise this. I am a creative who is inspired by bringing vision to life first and foremost.

Why did you choose to work in copper and metals?

I always knew that I wanted to work with lots of different materials, not just fabrics, and metal was one of them – I was naturally drawn to the depth and richness of copper, and I love the way that copper can transform into a range of colours, oxidising into blues and greens, and as it ages it mellows. The core essence of my copper work is the creation of a beautiful piece of armour in a sense – something to protect and shield, and how I work the copper comes, for me, to reflect the texture of life. I have a very holistic approach to life, and copper is the element which brings not only health and good luck, but is symbolic of speed and technology and change, all concepts that inspire me.

Who has been your greatest inspiration from the world of art?

That’s hard to answer because I have some many favorite pieces – one of my favorite artists is Ron Arad, I tend to love whatever he produces, whether it be a chair, a hat or a structure in Kings Cross Station. I am also very inspired by sculptural genius of Rachel Whiteread, Barbara Hepworth and Anish Kapoor – artists who challenge the system and fight for change through creating beautiful thought provoking exhibitions and installations.

Talk to us about your teaching – what do you most enjoy about mentoring?

I believe in giving back, whether it is in the field of fashion or beyond, that’s why I teach and also why I participate in events such as those held at Tate Britain where we show hundreds of young people how to sculpt and create for themselves. It is a big way to unlock creativity and stimulate vision. When I speak, I speak openly about the challenges and realities of building a brand, especially in the fashion industry. For too long students have been focused just on the design and creative side but it’s a tough world out there and you need to be prepared and taught how to improve your likelihood to succeed.

What has been the most fulfilling moment for you so far?

I just presented my AW/18 collection at AltaRoma, which was my first solo catwalk since my commercial launch in-front of the international media, supported by the UKDIT with the intention of drawing attention to diversity in fashion and hopefully the world. It was an amazing moment and privilege at so many levels. It’s very different to the kinds of brands often prevalent at AltaRoma. My brand is strong and feminine, but it’s not all about fashion for me. I don’t want to be defined as one thing, I hate boundaries and want the women who wear my clothes, or people who buy my accessories, or eventually drive my boats, even, to personalise and interpret my work so that they feel energised and complete wearing or living with a big or little piece of Sadie Clayton in their lives.

What are the key principles you stick to when designing?

From a fashion perspective, I would say Thierry Mugler, Claude Montana, Alexander McQueen, JPG and Comme des Garcons, as they epitomise a similar aesthetic purity, and, in their own way, stand for similar aspirational objectives for women. From a personal perspective, it was my mother who was instrumental in creating a woman who was hardworking, professional and tenacious. The key design principles I stick to are a strong silhouette, power and elegance. I love power, I love strength, I love ‘wow’, so if I can capture that in my major pieces then the job is done.

Why do feel you want to expand the brand beyond the horizon of fashion?

I just strongly believe that my vision of the world is not just one with a fashion focus. I would love to design the interiors of hotels, or super yachts or furniture, for example. I am passionate about the role of younger creatives in innovation, and I think my brand shows this in the way I have worked with, and continue to explore technology, whether in holographic form, through AI or 3D. Up until now, that has all been focused on fashion but we can always push the boundaries of design through technology and creativity, and I want to champion this.

What is your personal definition of beauty?

I was asked this recently by the Edinburgh Museum of Art. Beauty, for me, is the act of expression of one’s authentic identity – seeing somebody look a certain way, any particular way, that is really expressing their personality is beautiful. We are in a world now where you can wear what you want, and more and more people are taking advantage of that, whether it be in terms of cross dressing or the trend for gender neutral attire, or being wildly eccentric – it’s all a way of expressing who you are.

Photography Anthony Lycett

sadieclayton.co.uk