(…) billions of tons of material are being used to make cars, pottery, books, textiles, chemicals –but how many kilos of sculpture are made today? The non-utilitarian use of material is important. Utility means limitation in the forms produced. Expedient industrial production systems produce simple geometries –a world of boring and repetitive forms. Sculpture is the opposite of that.
The mass production of objects of daily use strips them of any symbolic connotation to focus solely on the utilitarian. Likewise, the shape of such artifacts is marked by the need to respond to certain conditions of use, limiting the expressive capabilities of the material. Tony Cragg intends to escape this triviality by establishing a different perspective on the horizon in which we live. Each of his works is able of giving life to a reality that until then did not exist, and as such constitutes a discovery, the birth of an individuality possessing beauty and singularity. In his works, nature has played only a tiny role, granting him a margin of maneuver which he fully exploits in his tireless search for new plastic solutions. His is an art that is not built from the rational but seeks to emulate the germinal forces of nature. Cragg creates as the plant creates its fruit, without imitating. This is demonstrated by the sculptures and drawings that the artist has exhibited since last April 7 at the National Museum of Fine Arts.
Large-format pieces such as Minster (1992) and small bronze sculptures such as Thin Skin (1997) make the exhibition space a dream, a permanent leap of scale. It is an approach to the epic vision from resources such as fragmentation, the increased size of the real or the generation of visual metaphors. Cragg’s sculptural language is a defense of the image as a space of passion, where the object is related to an organic as well as an aesthetic discourse. He uses a wide variety of materials, such as steel, aluminum, wood, plastic, bronze, glass, stone, marble, wax… Concerned with renewing and expanding the formal vocabulary, he transmutes these elements into original creations that suggest harmonious and constant growth, rather than a finished form of physical development.
One of the reasons around which Cragg draws spirals is the emergence of men, their archeology. Red Figure (2008), Tommy (2013), Three Standing Figures (2006) and Runner (2012) are denoting this precisely. However, in these cases the anthropomorphic profiles are fused in inexhaustible and dynamic forms, giving the impression of a continuous translation between the formed and the unformed. Finally, there is before us a close object, but not one encompassing under the term “representation.”
Cragg brings us closer to sculpture from the interior of the object and not from the mere surface, in which it is usually shown. Its materiality is the main trigger of emotional and intellectual processes around the work since “all use of material is an extension of ourselves, an extension of our possibilities of expression.”1 This richness is also appreciated in his drawings, filigree and fluid variations that navigate a sea of infinite lines. Among them gravitational tensions are created; they seem to betray –even without being visible– the presence of a force that gives order to the imaginative chaos of the artist. Indeterminacy, repetition, saturation and fluctuation are core notions in this process, where the gesture becomes main actor as a way to relate to tangible reality.
Cragg’s is a work that weaves experiences from objects and images that have an underlying mechanism of metamorphosis and chaining. His sculptural creations, as well as his drawings, get close to feelings and information of great importance and stir our way of looking thanks to his tenacious digging in the most amazing corners of the world. His predilection for the fluid, instead of the static, makes of each of his pieces a body in a larval state, capable of growing and expanding until reaching the limit experience. The mutation of the vision proposed by Cragg demands from the viewer an unprejudiced relationship, a willingness to enter a universe that flourishes for the first time before our eyes.
1. Tony Cragg, Documenta 7, Bd. 1 (Kassel: D V Paul Dierichs BmbH & Co KG,1882), 3.