Tony Cragg

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`Sculpture is a fantastic quickly developing and dynamic activity´

Tony Cragg, Congregation 1999 - MUDAM ©Adagp - photo Michael Richter
`Sculpture is a fantastic quickly developing and dynamic activity´

Tony Cragg (UK, 1949) was a twenty-year-old lab technician at the National Rubber Producers Research Association when he decided to study art. He went on to study at London’s Wimbledon School of Art and the Royal College of Art and during two summer vacations worked nightshifts in a foundry that manufactured components for engines.

The combination of art and the experience of the physical transformation of materials through industrial processes is the cornerstone of Cragg’s practice.

Tony Cragg, Minster, 1990 - courtesy the artist and YSP

The artist believes that ‘it could be said that the most fantastic material is the human neuron’, leading Cragg to consider his sculptures as being ideas made manifest. From the small scale to the monumental, Cragg’s practice is the outcome of a constantly questioning and experimental symbiotic process of thought and manual making, which always starts with drawing.

With the support of his studio, Cragg makes his sculptures by hand, each evolution of thought taking form and inspiring the next. Cragg is able to make use of almost every conceivable and suitable material in his work. In his early works, he combined plastic or wooden debris, building materials, bottles and mechanical elements. Gradually, his sculptures unfolded within a wider scope ranging from organic to technoid forms, yet without entirely renouncing the use of identifiable elements. Increasingly, his attention turned to the ‘classic’ materials of sculpture such as plaster, wood, bronze and stone – though never shying away from new materials such as fibreglass or Kevlar.

Tony Cragg, Parts of the World, 2015 - MUDAM photo Michael Richter

Although in recent years he has developed a kind of protocol for form-finding, he sees himself merely as an ‘agent’ who enables forms and their inner energy to come to the fore. ‘Even if it’s nothing linear, things generate something. There is a kind of self-propagating, self-generating energy within the material itself.’

Drawing, one of his main daily activities, is an essential tool in shaping and creating these sculptures. As a medium of abstraction and shortcuts, it allows him to work on formal problems to such an extent that they are ready to be solved during their three dimensional implementation.

Four different exhibitions taking place in different venues around Europe offer the opportunity to experience all these aspects and the artist’s prolific oeuvre and extensive practice.

Tony Cragg, Forminifera, 1994 - Collection Mudam Luxembourg Acquisition 1996 – Apport FOCUNA ©Adagp photo Remi Villaggi

At Mudam, in Luxembourg, Cragg approaches questions of form and material by associating the techniques of classical sculpture with prospective and experimental research. He believes that any imaginable material can be a carrier of meaning, imagination and emotions and that sculpture is a medium turned towards the future, a medium whose potential is far from exhausted.

In this conception, art occupies a territory between the organic realm of nature and the functionalistic remit of industrial production. Offering a space of freedom beyond utilitarian needs is therefore what constitutes the explicitly political dimension of his art – or of any art, for that matter – as it allows him to give the material a new form with every new sculpture and express his feelings and emotions in constantly changing ways.

Tony Cragg, Caldera, 2008 - photo Michael Richter courtesy of YSP

‘Sculpture is how material and material forms affect us’, says Cragg. Reaching beyond viewers’ emotional receptivity, it appeals primarily to their intellectual capacity of analytical perception in order to make sense of what they see.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park
presents the biggest UK exhibition to date by Tony Cragg. New sculptures, drawings and works drawn from nearly five decades of Cragg’s practice survey and demonstrate the artist’s pioneering and continued mastery of materials. A ‘radical materialist’, Cragg defines sculpture as a ‘rare category of objects’, and takes a taxonomic approach to his own practice, something which is reflected in the exhibition.

Tony Cragg, Identity, 2015; Weatherman, 2015 - photo Małgorzata Kujda ©Muzeum Współczesne Wrocław

The exhibition at the Hessisches Landesmuseum, in Darmstadt, focuses on the genesis of the inspiration of natural forms and the Unnatural Selection which alludes to Charles Darwin’s theory and encompasses the principle of artificial selection.

The display at Wrocław Contemporary Museum, in Poland, features over a dozen different sculptures made between 1996 and 2016, along with a selection of his drawings and watercolours.

video courtesy of Lisson Gallery - videographer Laura Bushell

Hessisches Landesmuseum
Tony Cragg. Unnatural Selection

Until 26.03.2017
Darmstadt, Germany

Mudam Luxembourg

Tony Cragg

Curator: Clément Minighetti
Until 3.09.2017

Wrocław Contemporary Museum

Tony Cragg. Sculpture

Curator: Eulalia Domanowska
Until 8.05.2017
Wroclaw, Poland

YSP - Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Tony Cragg: A Rare Category of Objects
04.03.17 - 03.09.17
Yorkshire, UK

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