Unreal Nature

June 20, 2016


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… I work until enough of my life has flowed into its body.

This is from Arp: Painter Poet Sculptor by Eric Robertson (2006):

[ … ]

He wanted immediate and direct production, like a stone breaking away from a cliff, a bud bursting, an animal reproducing. He wanted objects impregnated with imagination and not museum pieces, he wanted animalesque objects with wild intensities and colors, he wanted a new body among us which would suffice unto itself, an object which would be just as well off squatting on the corners of tables as nestling in the depths of the garden or staring at us from the wall. … To him the frame and later the pedestal seemed to be useless crutches. [Alexander Partens (pseud. of Arp, Serner and Tzara), 1920]

A draft text co-written the same year by Tzara and Arp expresses their dissatisfaction with the limitations imposed by the picture frame and the plinth in sculpture, which they describe as ‘conventions, deficiencies, problems, which impede the state of wonderment.’ This insistence on the need to establish a direct channel from the artist through the work to the spectator is a recurrent feature of Arp’s work, and a key feature of this is the elimination of any physical barriers between the artwork and the spectator.

Jean/Hans Arp, Sculpture to be Lost in the forest, 1932

… As Arp maintained, ‘I love nature, but not its substitutes. Naturalist illusionist art is a substitute for nature.’ The sheer constancy of his views over a substantial period of time is borne out by text published in French and German in 1955:

The content of a sculpture has to come forward on tiptoe, unpretentious and as light as the spoor of an animal in snow. Art should lose itself in nature. It should even be confused with nature. But this should be attained not by imitation but by the opposite of naturalistic copying on canvas or stone. Art will thus rid itself more and more of self-centredness, virtuosity, and foolishness.

Arp repeatedly affirmed the importance of the aleatory as a shaping force in his sculpture, but as I have suggested, the vital force exists alongside the gradual process of conscious control that the medium itself demands: ‘One work often requires months, years, I work until enough of my life has flowed into its body. Each of these bodies has a spiritual content, but only on completion of the work do I interpret this content and give it a name.’




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