Q&A with Laurence Edwards - Art Collector

Artist Laurence Edwards.

Acclaimed British sculptor Laurence Edwards’ latest exhibition New Works at Mossgreen Gallery follows the resurgence of interest in the medium after the well-known Bronze exhibition at the Royal Academy, London in 2012. Since then, Edwards’ works have been in high demand.

Your new works were on show last week at Mossgreen Gallery in Armadale, and again this week at Martyn Cook Galleries in Sydney. What are you most looking forward to about bringing your works back here?

Transporting heavy bronze sculptures to the other side of the planet is always interesting! Once they have cleared and jumped all bureaucratic hoops, I relish seeing them in a new space and light, finding out what a new public will make of them and learning things about the work that may not be evident back home.

Exposure to a new audience with differing concerns and cultural attitudes can reveal unseen aspects of the work. Through new conversations and experiences, I can learn more about the sculptures…The result can be another layer of thinking and new threads to pursue.

How are these new works different from your previous works?

They have evolved in many ways… the most noticeable difference is the increased use of materials and textures, a more ambitious fusion of figure and organic matter.

Stranger materials have been introduced- figures bound in bubble wrap, for example. The bubble wrap and tape stifling the sculptures has cast beautifully… the metre-high figures could be cocooned in a nest of insects, or strange egg forms, but equally could be wearing Issey Miyake, or Alexander McQueen outfits. They also retain a distinctly Japanese feel, almost Like Ming vases or pots. It's this ambiguity I'm really excited about.

Other figures are covered in cast stones. Bringing them to Australia has changed my perception of them. I was previously unaware of the significance of rock and stone in Aboriginal cultures. [With] stone almost representing an extension of the body, this has affected the way I look at the stones adorning these figures.

When you were last here in 2013 your works sold out. Does this success affect the direction of your future works (from concept to build)?

Selling my works has given me confidence to push ideas further, knowing that a dialogue has started with an audience, who will be able to join me and trace trajectories and narratives over periods of time. We have begun a journey so to speak.

When you moved to Laxfield, England, you set up studio spaces in a 16th century farmhouse for yourself and other artists. Soon after, an artistic community formed. What was it like seeing this community evolve?

Well that's an incredible thing. The bronze casting process needs a lot of people to make it work, it cannot be done independently, and this creates a shared objective in a studio setting. We work to a set of casting deadlines together, getting molds in kilns and pouring bronze. Melting bronze draws people in, [and] sharing extreme heat, molten metal and a degree of danger creates a sense of social cohesion. For want of a better word, it’s 'bonding'.

Bronze is fundamental to your practice, regardless of the materials you frequently experiment with. Why does this medium work best for your work?

Bronze affords the perfect level of fluidity when molten, retaining an incredible level of detail down to the finger print, is soft and flexible enough to work with using your hands and basic power tools, and is weather resistant, developing great patinas when exposed to the environment.

I think of bronze as an art metal- it's the alloy used for centuries by creative people from a myriad of cultures, this informs my work. I feel I'm working in a flowing river of ideas through time, and bronze is the common element binding me to a historical narrative. In the field next to my studio a Bronze Age hoard of thirty axe heads was unearthed, this means that four thousand years ago a person was doing exactly what I am doing next door.

There’s a very subliminal border between nature and your sculptures- you welcome debris from nature into your studio, letting it affect and take form in your work, making your works become mythical/ a hybrid, with an almost wet quality. Was this process accidental or on purpose?

I tend to work in very basic and raw environments- the elements are always present. My body influences the work, and the environment it's in does also. The sculpture is the meeting place. I start with an ambition to develop an idea, and soon the elements and circumstances obstruct my path.

In addition, your works are often photographed in outside, natural landscapes. How do you think this changes their reception?

I have developed projects specifically to be placed in the landscape, in particular the 'Creek Men'. Three eight foot figures that float on a raft in a tidal salt marsh for a year, responding to the moons pull and the vagaries of climate… This permeable relationship with the landscape and weather is an ultimate goal. I am excited by the different climate of Australia, the harshness of the weather, excited to see how the surfaces of some of the larger works respond to the outdoors here.

The title of your exhibition is A Celebration of Studio Practice and A Return to the Figurative- why is your studio process so fundamental to your work?

Because I'm hands on, the daily routine of process and work means I spend long stretches of time with objects under my charge. Spending time in a studio is to explore an interiority. I find it difficult to think of another place where this could be achieved, other than maybe a church, or a yoga class. I don't subscribe to an orthodoxy and I'm not very supple! So my options are limited.

What is the response to your work like in Australia versus London?

I have had extraordinary conversations with people here who already own my work, explaining how it fits into their lives, and what it means to them.

I find an Australian public to be honest, emotional and responsive. I often receive comments on the melancholic nature of the work. This I think must be a northern European sensibility. A British audience perhaps understands that mind-set, it's almost a given.

Edwards’ New Works exhibition opens at Martyn Cook Galleries tonight from 6pm. The exhibition runs until 29 April 2015.

Emily Cones-Browne

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