Illustrated companion

The sculpture of Richard Deacon, although abstract in appearance, is highly allusive and can be related to the tradition of 'biomorphic' imagery in modern art stemming from Arp and Miro. Deacon's extraordinary forms emerge from an interplay between his vision and imagination and the intrinsic properties and potentialities of the materials and processes that he uses. 'For Those Who Have Ears No.2' is one of a group of sculptures which resulted from Deacon's desire to make a work utilising an ear shape. In this particular case he used only the lower part of the ear shape he had created. However, the sensuous curving forms are clearly in part the outcome of the laminated wood construction process that he used to make the work, and the artist has commented: 'when you laminate things together ... it seems to be more than just a technical process. It seems to be a very rich process ...' He seems to have had in mind the idea of the joining together process as an image of creation. He also commented on the 'very obvious relationship between the layers of the laminate and growth rings on a tree ...' and compared the way in which the springy laminated form establishes its own position in space, with the process of drawing, where the artist repeatedly goes over a line in the effort to define its precise form. A striking feature of this sculpture is the strongly organic imagery of the creamy resin glue where it has oozed out from between the laminations. The title refers to Deacon's interest in the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus, the musician whose gift was so great that his music could charm the beasts. However, Deacon's immediate point of reference for this and the related sculptures, was the Sonnets to Orpheus of the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) on the subject of which Deacon made a series of drawings in 1978-9 [including Tate Gallery T04859] from which eventually followed the sculptures. The title also refers to the celebrated words of Jesus Christ, used by him when teaching the people, 'He that hath ears to hear let him hear' (Matthew 11.5 and five other locations in the Gospels). As well as ears the sculpture evokes breasts and the curved open forms of the lyre, the musical instrument of Orpheus.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.291