- Steven Claydon born 1969
- 21 aluminium bricks
- Displayed: 550 x 830 x 65 mm
- Presented by Sadie Coles HQ 2012
In London Pixel Array 21 2012 Claydon has cast eighteen standard London bricks in aluminium. These are stacked in four columns against the corner of a wall and stepped so that they decrease by one brick from a stack of six to a stack of three. Each object is inscribed with the words ‘LONDON BRICK’, reiterating the identity of the original mould and therefore highlighting that these are to be understood as sculptural simulacra, rather than real objects. The artist has explained:
The material transfiguration from ceramic to metallic substrate mirrors the status of an object when absorbed into the custody of the museum, gallery or designated as a cultural heirloom … Aluminium has a peculiar history ranging from very high status material in the late nineteenth century to an ubiquitous, democratised substance in the present, unassociated with the venerable properties of bronze and marble more usually associated with art objects.
(Email correspondence with Tate curator Clarrie Wallis, 1 May 2012.)
The visibility of the cast inscription and the form of the arrangement contrasts with ordinary bricks, which are usually overlapped to form a wall and organised so that their inscriptions do not show. The geometry of the sculpture relates to the work of minimalist sculptors like Richard Serra and particularly Carl Andre, who also made a sculpture using bricks (Equivalent VIII 1966, Tate T01539). Whereas Andre’s sculpture used real bricks and could be reorganised (although it is usually laid out as a grid on the floor), Claydon’s aluminium bricks are copies and as such suggest other associations, like the gold bar. Indeed, this reading foregrounds the relative value of aluminium as a material for fine art, and its current status as something ubiquitous, like ceramics. As such the work might also be seen in relation to different kinds of grids; particularly the Periodic Table, used by chemists to order elements such as aluminium. The arrangement of columns and rows also relates to Claydon’s interest in pixels, the building blocks of digital images that are mentioned in the work’s title. In this way London Pixel Array 21 plays with scale and the viewer’s relationship to space, as well as their relationship to the ‘real’ and virtual worlds.
Claydon’s complex sculptural compositions interrogate the different ways in which we engage with the world and how different meanings and outlooks are the product of the multi-layered networks and relationships between things. Claydon is interested in material culture, a phrase used by anthropologists and archaeologists to describe the physical products – from traditional craft skills to modern electronic equipment – of society. The term suggests that culture is itself something intangible, but which can take material form. Similarly, Claydon sees objects as being ‘culpable’, in the sense that they reveal something about our way of life. He is particularly interested in the passage of materials from base matter to artefacts with cultural resonance. His sculptures investigate the value of objects and what they reveal about society at large, also exploring the language of museum presentation, with particular reference to the nature of display of previously utilitarian, everyday objects as cultural heirlooms (‘Martin Clark in Conversation with Steven Claydon’, in firstsite 2012, p.96).
Claydon’s way of working is informed by the material properties of individual objects as well as by an interest in the linguistic play of visual meaning. His work spans sculpture, print, painting, film and performance and adopts a variety of forms, fusing old and new, raw and man-made. In bringing together different registers or systems of imagery and exploring sculptural conventions, his practice can also be seen as an investigation of language. Among the interweaving themes he explores is also an interest in what he describes as ‘the fluidity of meaning’ (Claydon in conversation with Tate curator Clarrie Wallis, March 2012). He is concerned with the life of objects, the values and meanings they acquire, and how these change over time.
Steven Claydon: The Ancient Set, exhibition catalogue, International Project Space, Birmingham 2008.
Steven Claydon: Culpable Earth, exhibition catalogue, firstsite, Colchester 2012.
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