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My place in the history of British sculpture


The struggle in art
Anthony Caro Artist
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[Q] Do you think there are certain works that you have made that have been much more significant than others, that they become staging posts, and they become triggers, and they become the beginning of something else?

Yes, yes, partly when people tell you so, but also partly when, you know, those things, by chance, have happened and you're pleased, and that's... that's... that was an important... that was an important move you made there. And I think I'm very interested in the move, so I've often found, when I've been to studios of American painting friends, that the ones I've picked up on and got excited about are the... often failures, but wacky things. I'm really interested in where they've gone wacky and I'm not terribly interested in when they've... when they've made a cream...a creamy painting, like perfect, yes, it's absolutely right. Because it's almost as if that came as like a... cream is right; it's like the top of the thing is the splendid achievement. I don't think I want the achievement so much as the struggle, and I find, when I'm looking at... at things, I very often find myself very interested... for example, in Mondrian's work before he hit it – before he hit these black and lines with the colours in them – very interested in the pier and ocean ones, and even the ones before that where he's tried to do an abstract... he's tried to abstract a still life. And the same with Picasso: very often interested before it is achieved, which in the process of achievement, because that's got all sorts of hints about how you might start thinking yourself about trying to achieve something.

[Q] So give me some examples, then, of works that seem to have this significance for you.

Well I was talking about Picasso; I was thinking of... there... you know, there's somewhere he did... where he had a sort of pear that was cut. There was a... and a picture and some things like that, you know. Quite early... they were early. They were just... just pre-cubist work.

[Q] But what about your work?

Oh, oh mine. Oh, mine? Oh, mine. Oh, no, I don't know. I don't think like that with mine.

[Q] But you said earlier that you think there were – are – some works that are more significant than others.

Oh, they're not the... No, the significant, no, no, I don't know where. I'm talking about the... the significant ones are much more likely to have achieved it, in a way, because you can go on from there, you know. I suppose with works like "Midday", "Prairie". And yet "Prairie" is really quite accomplished... like a finished thing. It is... it is an achievement. It's not... it's not a... it's not a struggling attempt to get somewhere; the thing works out quite well. No, I thought you meant what I looked at, and I'm looking... the stuff I look at, I'm looking at it as a way to kind of start thinking, and I think what I'm saying with myself is, you know, like it isn't... when I look at the... at the key works they're nothing to do with... with struggle they're to do with getting somewhere, I think.

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: Midday, Prairie

Duration: 3 minutes, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: November 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008