Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture - Steven Claydon

Over the next few blog posts I am going to guide you through one of the current exhibitions at The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, namely The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture. 

The experience of Steven Claydon's work begins as one walks through a curtain of yellow plastic, the kind that could be found in a factory or supermarket, as the fringe separating the shop floor from behind the scenes in the stockroom. Claydon tests the boundaries of sculpture, making work that often engages multiple senses including smell and sound. In this work Claydon has infused the curtains with citronella, a scent used to repulse mosquitoes and midges. 

He uses materials in inventive and surprising ways, sometimes creating objects that appear to be made from a material such as wood but that are actually made from a substance such as polyurethane. Seemingly historic artefacts are positioned in relation to contemporary objects, prompting the viewer to question what they are looking at and question how they value such things. 

Claydon made use of one of the freestanding walls in the gallery. "He covered it in dark blue magnetic film, then threw pennies at it." From afar it resembles a constellation of stars in a nights sky, but only on closer inspection does it become apparent that it consists of pennies attached to the background.

Of the four artists included in the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture, I felt most distant from Claydon's work. It might be Claydon's use of trickery that I find dissatisfying. A barrier is created between the artist and the audience, the artist being the one with the upper hand and the knowledge, and the audience as those who are being deceived. This has the effect of making the work seem dishonest and cold. If it were not for one of the gallery invigilators who told me a story behind one of the works, I would be unaware of the references to Jurassic Park. Claydon's work seems very impressive and intelligent, but I felt separate from it and found it difficult to engage with on a deeper level. That said, the skill that goes into making the work is evident and it is good to see an artist who obviously enjoys making beautiful objects.


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