The sculptural imagination
Gone are the times in whichsculpture was a subordinate to painting and lived in close proximity to minorand artisanal arts and was subjected to an external law it had to abide to. It hasearned its place not just in relation with other arts but also as an autonomousartistic language that is not limited to being a monument, funeral art,architectural ornament or a symbol of earthly or divine power. Classic art hascertainly high examples of sculpture, but this realization that sculpturepossesses its own imaginary, free from other constrains other than the ones impliedin making sculpture or the artist’s own research, is recent.
These transformations started with modernism, and fundamentally through specificgestures made by sculptors. In other words, the freeing of sculpture from its subordinationto architecture, urbanism, painting, power, or religion can be found inspecific works, by specific authors.
These generic observations were motivated by António Bolota’snew exhibition (b. 1962, Benguela), because of animportant characteristic – the way these new works summon sculpture’s specific imagination and its formal dreams, togetherwith its fight against gravity and its dealings with equilibrium of masses thatoppose, conjugate and harmonize.
The use of imagination doesn’t mean these groups should be seenas models of sculptures-to-come, imagined and desired pieces, that one day willconquer their final scale inside a museum exhibition room or in the middle of acity, but rather because these pieces take us to the fundamental language sculptureuses in its processes of idealization, formalization and materialization.
This exhibition is surprising. First because it is a change in the way thisartist has been working: the usual big impressive gesture, an heir to and also contaminatedby a knowledge of engineering and its secrets about the precarious equilibriumof mass, gave way to constrained actions, equally intense when it comes to precisionand surprise. Also because the use of sophisticated resources was replaced by away of thinking a lot more economic and synthetic, which is to say, these aresimple operations as, for instance, a marble sphere, a steel ruler or a sponge,that juxtaposed materialize the fascinating sculptural equilibriums or, in anotherexample, a piece of graphite with around 30 cm that is suspended by the action ofa stone inverting the physical law of gravity and showing that being suspended isa real possibility of matter. These are schemes that are not a type of illusionor a deceiving trick but rather that take us to the operations that originated sculpture.If formal language and its use is an important aspect of this exhibition, anotheraspect is the way these tables/plinth where the sculptural groups lay remind usof an alchemical laboratory with its glass jars, potions and elements, exposedto multiple metamorphosis and transformations. These small sculptures – thatthe artist says are Without Scale – through operations that articulate the precisionof the gesture that builds, with the chance implied when bringing differentmatters together, as steel, water, sponge, wood, marble, earth, glass, inscribethese pieces in a space that does relate to any specific geography because thesesculptures are not of a place, rather they create their own sense of space.
This is another noteworthy aspect of this presentation: to the privilegedrelationship with the exhibition space in which the sculptor makesinterventions, highlighting their spatial characteristics and answering to eachspace with impressive and monumental gestures, these sculptures now add a demandfor a spatiality that didn’t exist before, but that they originate themselves,making their own space of existence.
These questions about the origin of the space created by sculpture – that isn’tthe space of architecture, nor the space of the gallery, nor the space of the world– are related to the original idea of sculptural imagination. Which means, thisexhibition surprises the different ways in which sculpture imagines the spacethrough connections between matter, shape and intensity, which originate theirown spatiality, inexistent before. Being that for artists, and following AnaHatherly’s powerful suggestion, to imagine is a form of action: to imagine thespace is to act in the space.
in Ípsilon, October 7th 2016, newspaper Público, p.26