Why Does Sculpture Keep Getting Bigger?
Updated: Mar 27, 2019
On occasion, I think about a place in time which I call, OneDay. It's a destination where I have limitless time to read and fill my cup with art. Don’t get me wrong, I love the busy days that I live right now: preserving sculpture and interesting features on buildings and writing novels set in the art world. But one day, I will have more time to take trips to far off places that are home to monumental sculptures that I long to see.
Contemplating OneDay made me pause and consider why I'm drawn particularly to large sculpture and why they keep getting bigger. I thought about one of my favourite bronze giants, The Lovers, at St Pancras station. This is one I’ve never worked on but hope to, as it makes my heart sing every time I look at it, and not just because its made with my favourite metal.
The Tate debated the remarkable human urge to keep building bigger and more monumental structures a while back. They referenced the human need to distinguish locations siting Stonehenge, the Pyramids alongside Anish Kapoor’s Orbital.
I can understand this, but struggle to feel the truth of it when I look at something large like Gormley's, Angel of The North.
Maybe it's because my mind doesn't work in a linear way, but rather than feel these creations mark the spot, I am transported away from THE SPOT. My sense of place is lost. The larger they are, the more they dominate the world I stand in so that, for an instant, I am there no more. But, unlike with fiction or films, they don’t draw the whole story out for me: they suggest, they hint. They reference another place, another dimension, that they have fallen out of - from a place like, OneDay.
This month sees the arrival of the UK’s biggest sculpture - The giant statue of a crouching female in front of Theatre Royal Plymouth by Josepth Hillier. Reading an interview about it in the Plymouth Herald the Theatre Royals Chief exec said that it’s about showing their city’s ambition. It reminded me of the quote by Herb Caen, San Francisco Columnist who said “A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams”
This comment resonates more with me. A huge sculpture is enviably ambitious. The technology involved in casting and assembling alone is so vast it's awe inspiring. Seeing an idea which begins as such a little thing grow into a vast structure sends a creative challenge out into the world: create big dreams and make them happen. They are the ultimate motivational leader.
Certainly, that’s what I felt when I first saw the gargantuan surfaces of Richard Serra's sculptures in Bilbao some years ago. Some say brutalist, I say beautiful. Those vast, rusty shavings made my little old heart go, pitter-patter, and from that moment I knew his sculpture would have to feature in my next book. Its presence was the gunpowder in my plot line.
I have no doubt that sculptures will rise higher than Plymouth’s, crouching girl, Messenger, and I leave off here with a slightly ethereal thought. Like steeples that grew taller through the centuries, pointing up to the Almighty, maybe sculpture grows too for a similar reason. In a world with so many challenges, we need something big to break through these difficulties and speak to our souls. In the words of the actress, Sellar Adler, “Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.”