• Index

    From The Great Wall

  • Index-5

    From The Great Wall

  • Index-6

    From The Great Wall

  • Index-2

    From The Great Wall

  • Index-1

    From The Great Wall

  • Index-3

    From The Great Wall

  • Index-4

    From The Great Wall

  • Index-7

    From Biblios

  • Index-8

    From Biblios

  • Index-9

    From Biblios

  • Index-10

    From Biblios

  • Index-11

    From Biblios

Sculpture

Guy Laramee

Posted by Charlotte Simmonds,

Lately Guy Laramee has found himself in the midst of a media storm thanks to the attention lavished on his book-sculptures, works of jaw-dropping craftsmanship that have subsequently ping-ponged around the Temple of File-Sharing (a.k.a. the internet). And rightfully so – Laramee spent years meticulously carving old volumes into epic mountainscapes, crumbling caves and zen-like garden scenes. We had to get to the bottom of such a Herculean undertaking and Guy was more than happy to share a few words with us about the nature of knowledge, the origins of the encyclopedia and why he put a chainsaw to his books.

Your works are undoubtedly visually arresting, but Is there any sort of “statement” or a more stylised meaning to your work?

I came to this work while doing a master’s in anthropology, so in a way, this work is like turning the anthropological gaze upon itself. How does the tribe of social scientists look from the planet of art? They look like people buried in books! As you may know, the Biblios were little people who literally lived in books, they dug tunnels to connect words one with another. That’s how “encyclopaedia” was created : joining “Cyclops” and “pedestrian”.

Thus originally, encyclopaedia meant “walking with only one eye open” – a meaning that is now lost, unfortunately. The Biblios dug so many tunnels that one day the roof fell on their head. They perished  under the weight of their knowledge. I hope this will not be our fate…

Did the project follow a learned craft (i.e. carving, model making) or did your inspiration dictate the skills you had to acquire to complete the project? 

No skill at all, it was a magical discovery, like all art is. I was working on another sculpture in a metal shop, and at some point I had this stupid idea of putting a book in the sand blaster cabinet. Boom! That was it. I saw immediately the landscape, and the whole line of work. The skills were developed in order to give birth to these landscapse. There’s no “book sculpture class” in the academia, not yet, and the day they do it, it’s dead.

Is there a significance to the books you choose? Is your choice a statement for/against any particular type of literature? 

I used to choose only obsolete encyclopaedia and dictionaries for their neutrality. But now I use a different criteria – I deny content whatsoever. I chose the books by the colour of their jackets. No joke – I chose them because they are beautiful. And no surprise, old books are way more beautiful than new ones. In those times, people made books that would last, because knowledge was still sacred. 

In a way, what I do belongs to sacrifice, in the anthropological lore. In the sacrifice, the victim becomes sacred precisely because she is sacrificed. So these books that nobody cared about anymore become sacred objects in a way, because I transform them into art.

You say in your artist statement that culture/knowledge is a process of “erosion rather than accumulation” and you conclude with the idea of returning to the “cloud of the unknowing”, seeming to imply that the pursuit of knowledge is a futile process. Can you expand upon this?

It seems that with the demise of the contemplative aspects of spirituality, it has escaped us that “knowing” is just one half of our patrimony. “Being” is the other half  – what does it mean to just “be”? Our “advanced” cultures are so obsessed with accumulating information about things that we are forgetting a bit more each day that knowing things “about” things will never make us happy. Why?

You cut a thing in two and then each half in two, it’s infinite. Painter Agnes Martin said: “I gave up fact completely. Just bad guess work. You’re never going to know life through facts.” When you stop this accumulation of knowledge, you mysteriously become more alive.

Art is on its way of becoming the way our societies are suiciding themselves. Too much trivial stuff. Spectacle, glamour, sensationalism. All this to chains us to what enslaves us – our addiction to experiences. After the 3D screen at the movie, the moving seat, what’s next ?

So no, I don’t believe in progress, in art as in culture in general. We have all this information and the 20th Century has been the bloodiest in the whole of human history. In Japanese culture, “old” is not badly seen, on the contrary. It is through the old that we reach the timeless, Zen master Robert Aitken says. 

Going to a volcano makes you want to fall on your knees. The Grand Spectacle of life is like going to church, so if you can no longer afford to adopt a religious credo, go to nature!

So, would you say there anything you “know” about art, as a process and as an experience?

No, really nothing. It is too mysterious. I used to know a lot, to pretend I knew. I even went to anthropology to find answers to my queries about the creative process. Like why creators are so obsessed? Why do most of them live in a sort of madness?

But now I am resigned. I put a chainsaw in my books and now I feel better, accepting that the “why” of art is an impossible question. You cannot know what you are.

And where do you see your art, or the art world in general, as headed next?

A thick cloud of unknowing!

Portrait11

Posted by Charlotte Simmonds

Californian Charlotte joined us as an editorial intern after studying at New York university and London Metropolitan University. She wrote for the site between January and March 2012.

Most Recent: Sculpture View Archive

  1. List

    Berlin-based artist Maiko Gubler can usually be found creating deceptively three-dimensional imagery utilising a mixture of 3D modelling software. She’s created glossy ceramic-like fruits for magazine covers, metallic fish for German club albums but now she’s actually making objects that exist in the real world. Her collection of Gradient Bangles are created from 3D-printed gypsum and uniquely coloured to create an extraordinary range of jewellery. Lovely stuff.

  2. Main

    Rodan Kane Hart is a South African artist and graduate of the Michaelis School of Art in Cape Town. Having only received his bachelors degree in 2011 he’s got a pretty impressive body of sculptures to his name already that broadly deal with the colonial origins of modern South Africa. Though I’d struggle to say that I appreciate the fine details of the concepts behind his practise, I’m incredibly impressed by his use of materials; the balance of industrial and natural substances and the interplay he creates between geometric forms and landscape. Definitely one to watch.

  3. List

    Elena Stonaker is part fine artist, part fashion designer with the sensibilities of a quilter thrown in for good measure. She makes dolls, paints pictures, and fashions bizarre wearable sculptures from amalgamations of fabric, jewels and imagery that sit somewhere between tapestry and garments. In short, she is one of a kind.

  4. Main

    As much as the sculptures of the time insinuate, the average man hanging round the forum in 500 BC didn’t necessarily have rippling quads, a laurel wreath and an angry God hot on his trail. This is perhaps why Tom Price’s sculptures of men he sees hanging around South London ring so true. In these beautiful sculptures of men, toned abs are replaced with beer bellies, divine movements swapped with bored slouching and catapults with mobile phones.

  5. List

    German artist Katharina Grosse has an obsession with scale. She told as much when we spoke to her for the autumn issue of Printed Pages magazine, an interview in which she revealed she goes surfing in New Zealand every year to reset her own sense of her place against the infinite natural scale. All this puts her latest project in a Brooklyn Park into perspective (in every sense of the word). Just Two Of Us is a series of massive multi-coloured sculptures which have taken over the MetroTech Commons plaza, looking like the architectural remains of a post-punk psychedelic society. It’s bright, bold and inescapably interactive; three things Katharina does as well as any artist we can think of.

  6. List

    At this year’s Here conference I introduced Andy Rementer to the stage saying that “we feature him so often on the site he probably thinks we have a bit of a crush on him, which we basically do.” I’m not saying I regret saying that necessarily but I have replayed it in my mind a few times wondering just how appropriate it was. Nonetheless Andy got in touch a few weeks ago telling us about his new project which sees his bright and colourful cavalcade of characters go all 3D.

  7. List

    Lina Sponberg’s still a student in her third year at the Broby Grafiska College of Cross Media, Sweden but the professional standard of her work belies her young age. She’s enrolled on a packaging and graphic design course, meaning she gets to learn the basics of good design but also has to apply it to some very specific applications. She’s already created album covers and cosmetics packaging that looks incredibly convincing but we’ve been enthralled by her personal poster project that creates beautiful geometric illustrations from carefully-crafted 3D paper-scapes. The posters play with our natural sense of perspective, warping and distorting as you move around them, the final pattern only revealed from a specific angle. The idea itself is interesting enough but Lina’s attention to detail in the finishing shows off an impressive range of construction and design skills.

  8. List

    We’ve all seen paper sculpture before; it’s the impressive 3D stuff cut from sheets of brightly-coloured modelling card that makes you wonder how anyone could have the patience to sit at a desk for hours and ruin their fingertips for just one piece of work. But what you probably haven’t seen before is sandpaper sculpture – same principle, much more dangerous material. Paper sculpture veteran Mandy Smith has just collaborated with photographer Bruno Drummond to produce these uncomfortable looking, hand-crafted creations. There’s a bikini that we’d suggest should never be worn, a slide that encourages severe chaffing and the less said about the toilet roll the better. That’s a nightmare hangover scenario that we never want to experience. Look at that torn roll just sat there, all unassuming looking, waiting to wreak havoc on your undercarriage.

  9. List

    Only the most capable creatives can create what feels like an entire parallel universe in a single room inside a gallery, but Korean artist Soo Sunny Park has made this tricky task her niche. Toying with light and space to conjure up waves of rainbows from thousands of squares of prismatic glass tied to a wire frame, she warps our perception of reality into a phosphorescent shimmer of what we know.

  10. List

    You might remember us talking about Ai Weiwei’s impressive Forever Bicycles installation in January (if you don’t you should – we made a terrible but unavoidable joke about Katie Melua) and this weekend he recreated it in Toronto for La Nuit Blanche, an all night arts and culture festival.

  11. List-cadi-froehlich

    Artist Cadi Froehlich co-ordinates something very beautiful out of her own kind of chaos. She makes sculpture on large and small scales from salvaged copper and materials which have a Rauschenberg-esque “found object” quality to them, resulting in artwork which is both curiously inviting and strangely detached at the same time.

  12. List

    Window dressers often go unnoticed, don’t you think? Involved in their own unique brand of set design, they create micro-universes designed both to frame and to contextualise a fashion designer or retail outlet’s vision, and yet unless they’re dressing the enormous storefronts of Louis Vuitton or transforming Selfridges into a submarine they rarely get the credit they deserve.

  13. List

    There’s something fascinating about artwork which transcends its own medium to masquerade as another, and artist Mathilde Roussel has perfected the mastery of making paper look like anything but. Using graphite (lots of it) and a well-loved scalpel, Mathilde transforms large pieces of paper into what appears to be rubber, causing them to behave almost like organic forms draped over walls. Appropriately, then, and instead of being exhibited in frames, the final pieces are then hung from hooks and left to fall naturally. Droopy ears, abandoned socks, butterfly chrysalises – they look like any number of things, but paper is certainly not one of them.