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Rethinking sculpture


How to start a sculpture
Anthony Caro Artist
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[Q] How do you know when a sculpture's finished?

It tells you. Larry Poons said that, you know? ‘When it says yes to me; when it says yes to me'. It tells you; it tells you. Not always. Not always.

[Q] How do you begin a sculpture? With an idea? With two bits of material?

Both. Oh, hundreds of different ways. Probably with a sort of direction... probably with a sort of direction. I mean with two bits of material you can do it, and then you have some fun and it's lovely and you're making a nice thing that works out. But that's kind of like a given, an extra, creaming it. You're creaming it, when you're doing that. But when you... but I think you don't do that; I think you... you tend to sort of say, ‘Well, I think we need to go this way. I think we're thinking about what... we're thinking about throughness, we're thinking about looking from the one side'. Very important... how you see the sculpture is very important. How the... how the spectator, the viewer, looks. Does he look from a position and let the sculpture turn round? Does he want the sculpture to corkscrew? Does he want front, back, sides, you know? I mean, one of the most interesting things I thought about the Damien... early Damien Hirst was: you're walking through it. You could see the thing on both sides; you would walk through in the middle. That's an interesting way of... of thinking about sculpture, you know, it... it being round you... you know. Are you inside the sculpture perhaps? You know that's... that's why I'm very interested in... in environments... environmental sculpture, you know – installations and things – because it's a different sort of way of seeing sculpture, a different way of approaching it. And that, I think, informs a lot of... of how you... of how you start a sculpture.

On the other hand, you know, I... for example, that sculpture, “Halifax Steps”, started with the poles; there were the poles in the place where I made that sculpture and the poles suggested to me that we went round the poles. And then, having made that, you developed that and you say, ‘Well, maybe we don't need the poles; we'll try doing it without the poles. Maybe we'll try doing it big, you know, or maybe we'll lay it down on its side. Or maybe we'll hang it from the ceiling or maybe we'll go down and treat it as architecture and go into another... on to another level'. I mean all these are... are different ways. Or just sheer fury; anything could make you start; anything could make you start.

British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro (1924-2013) came to prominence in 1963 after a show at the Whitechapel Gallery. Keen to create a more direct interaction with the viewer he placed pieces directly on the ground, rather than on plinths, a technique now widely used. He held many honorary degrees and was knighted in 1987.

Listeners: Tim Marlow

Tim Marlow is a writer, broadcaster and art historian. He founded "Tate: The Art Magazine" in 1993 and was presenter of Radio 4 arts programme "Kaleidoscope" from 1991 to 1998, for which he won a Sony Award. He has presented art programme's on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, including a documentary about JMW Turner, and written about art and culture for various British newspapers and magazines including "The Guardian", "The Times" and "Blueprint" He is Director of Exhibitions at the White Cube gallery in London as well as a visiting lecturer at Winchester School of Art, an examiner on the Sculpture MA there and former creative director of Sculpture at Goodwood

Tags: Halifax Steps, Larry Poons, Damien Hirst

Duration: 2 minutes, 56 seconds

Date story recorded: November 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008