Part of the Landscape: evolution & exploration
12 Mary Place, Paddington, Sydney, Australia 15 April – 6 May
A new exhibition of bronze sculptures by acclaimed English artist Laurence Edwards. Join us for the preview at 12 Mary Place, Sydney on 14 April, 3-5pm.
We are all made from the clay to which we return. This seemingly Biblical statement has its counterpoint in more recent theories that early life at a molecular level did indeed start in clay. It also serves to give a context to the sculptures of Laurence Edwards, which are grounded in the landscape. Working with clay, soil, bark, scrub and string, there is a visceral connection between the landscape and his figure that speaks of the vitality of life pulled up through roots from the ground and forging itself into shape.
The human tussle with the landscape is as pertinent to the Suffolk fields of England, home to Edwards and inspiration to artists from Constable to Arthur Boyd as it is the plains of Australia. However, it is during the process of casting his sculptures that the connection to the landscape is at its most literal. Edwards is one of the few sculptors in the world who casts their own work: it is a complex process often referred to as ‘cire perdue’ or ‘lost wax’ and is associated with the castings of the Renaissance masters. From these ancestral lines it was brought by Italian families to England and to the Royal College of Art where Edwards first learnt the craft. On a Henry Moore Travel scholarship to India, following the teachings of Sri Lankan sculptor Tissa Ranasinghe, Edwards began to explore some of the techniques that had thrived there for over thousands of years, which have their origin in the mighty city of Ur, in what is now modern day Iraq.
Often placed in the extremities of landscape, Edwards’ sculptures are particularly at home in the ‘wild’, epitomising the historicised Australian interest between an anonymous, male figure and the great outdoors. With its expressive surface – dark brown with deep teal stains – and its melancholic, downward glance, Edwards’ monumental figure Hands on Hips (2017) standing at 180cm tall, indirectly references the work of the Australian Impressionists and the all too gritty reality of life in the bush. Though not necessarily inspired by the painting, Hands on Hips indeed shares a number of features with Frederick McCubbin’s Down on His Luck (1889). This image depicts a disheartened swagman, (a travelling labourer) sitting by a campfire, sadly brooding over his misfortune. The man rests in a forest of thin, linear trees contemporarily termed ‘widow-makers’ as they would often snap and kill men working or walking below. Surprisingly and according to an 1889 review, this downbeat, depressive picture ‘is thoroughly Australian in spirit’. Promising is it then that Edwards’ male forms are not the Romantic, awestruck wanderers of Caspar David Friedrich’s subliminal oeuvre but are, in fact, embittered and ominous, reflective of the tough life which McCubbin so candidly realises.
Born in 1967 and based in Suffolk, Edwards trained at Canterbury College of Art and then the Royal College of Art. He has studios in Butley and Saxundham, Suffolk. Messums Wiltshire was set up in 2016 by Johnny Messum, a pioneering arts centre in the largest tithe barn in the United Kingdom. The landscape surrounding the barn is of outstanding natural beauty, providing an inspirational backdrop for visitors attending a programme of exhibitions, events, workshops and performances. 12, Mary Place is Sydney’s longest-running rental gallery, which forged a model that is becoming increasingly widespread in an era when art fairs and the Internet make maintaining a permanent exhibition space difficult for aspirational dealers. Edwards’ works were last exhibited in Australia in 2014 and in Sculpture by the Sea in 2015.