Over the last few weeks I’ve been in residence at The Duchy developing new work for a solo exhibition in the gallery, ‘The Swan and Hostage’.
I’ve been working with key materials and techniques including brightly cast wax and copper leaf together with carved and painted MDF surfaces. Through continuously questioning the process whilst making the work I’ve used the residency to open new areas of development – such as the embellishment of the surface of sculpted wax objects with layers of metal leaf. Combining these material advancements with new research into monument and motif has brought greater freedom, allowing more playful works to emerge.
James McLardy | The Swan and Hostage
28 July – 25 August 2012
The Duchy is pleased to present The Swan and Hostage, a solo show of new work by Glasgow artist James McLardy.
McLardy’s work explores hierarchy within the use of colour, material and effect, collaging the fake and the real nature of materials in order to question grandeur and authenticity. The result of specifically learned skills and techniques, McLardy’s work creates discourse between appearance and value, contrasting meticulously rendered peacock-like facades with more expressive and ebullient elements. Recently characterised by large, monumental sculptures crafted to an opulent finish, McLardy’s work aims to destabilise the elevated aesthetic of his constructions through a disconnected use of form and finish.
The Swan and Hostage combines a new series of pedestals objects and frame like structures, exhibited alongside work with wax components and decorative paint techniques, including faux tiling, wood graining and imitation bronze patinas. Whereas previous work has explored the exposition of material fakery to question whether intensely working a material gives value beyond its materiality, McLardy’s new work for the exhibition expresses a freer engagement with form and motif. The artist presents segments of pillars, Classical columns, modern objects, monolithic plinths, a Grecian vase-like vessel and symbols reminiscent of Art Deco design. These forms are disrupted by a haphazard use of red and pink wax that is used extensively throughout the work: moulded, hammered, tied, clad in copper leaf and poured into wedges, marking out a provocative palette in various emulations. Invoking associations with elegance, glamour, simplicity and functionality, the use of Art Deco insignia laments a pre-modern era wherein decoration was at one with design, whilst asserting McLardy’s continued interest in the aesthetics of the 1930s, a decade of boom and bust which has parallels to current times.
A disparity is created between the seriousness, hi-art and discipline evocative of these shapes and effects, and the looseness of melted and hand-sculpted elements, experimenting with the malleable, erratic qualities of wax to create uncertain relationships. With contrast a constant in McLardy’s work, he employs the material in both soft and solid forms: soft fleshy wax set against the hard-edge geometry of the objects and hard, glossy waxen moulds forming plinths and marbled blocks; the impermanent and changing quality of the material at odds with its prominent inclusion in the base or support of the sculptures. Aware of the various connotations the material has: religious, ritualistic, romantic, historic, industrial, domestic and artistic, it is also used to evoke emotional and associative reactions.
Making reference to high-culture and class, McLardy plays with the motif of the bow tie, its half tied form cast in red wax lent against a stepped black pedestal. The idea of the open bow tie again hints at McLardy’s desire to diminish the formal elements of the work but reinforces a wider symbolism in his practice in which the use of shapes evocative of ‘taste’ and affluence are undermined by their setting and materiality.
In a similar way, McLardy plays with historical and traditional references of the use of bronze, applying copper leaf to imitate bronze and its oxidization, and reproducing patinas on the surface of sculpted MDF objects. This ‘negative’ patina creates numerous oxymora; genuine patinas, the result of time-aged chemical reaction on the surface of the alloy, protect and mask an object’s value, whereas McLardy’s copy seeks to assign grandeur through a materialist illusion. Here the artist plays with the viewer’s sensation of worth, both in the discernment of the object and the perceived skill in its making, pushing the meaning and value of each material into permanent contradiction.
This quizzical and self-effacing approach saturates McLardy’s practice, continually re-presenting his sculptures with new integrities. The Swan and Hostage seeks to challenge the association of skill with worth and uncover the real value of modern objects, suggesting that a more meaningful and provocative conclusion can be envisaged.
Enjoyable exhibition questioning the inherent value and fakeness of sculpted pieces
Source: The List
Date: 3 August 2012
Written by: Talitha Kotzé
James McLardy’s solo show ‘The Swan and Hostage’ is the result of his six-week residency at the Duchy gallery in the east end of Glasgow. The title echoes the pub-like feel to the gallery’s name and location: the swan symbolises the beautiful, the embodiment of potential myths, whereas the hostage signals imprisonment. In turn, this pair of opposites refers to the artist’s active use of concealing and revealing the fake and real nature of his materials. His is a language of acknowledging and subverting the values of both modern objects and techniques of making.
The show consists of an array of pedestal objects covered in decorative paint techniques, including faux tiling, wood graining and imitation bronze patinas. The forms are hard edged, self consciously masculine and phallic, but simultaneously bordering on farcical collapse. This makes them enjoyable to look at.
McLardy achieves this with the help of his descriptive titles. ‘Re-Handsoming Enhancer’ is the seedy title given to a collection of objects scattered across the floor. It looks a bit like the throwing of bones to divine a problem. Among these lies an undone bow tie cast in red wax. This object of high-culture has been subverted into something comical and impractical, giving it a new life as formal object – its waxy form spread across the floor in between other strange fragments.
Nearby, ‘Y Morals’ stands chunkily erect in its totemic objectness. The large-scale wooden hourglass figure painted sombre black is displayed on a waxy base covered with copper leaf which creates a strange looking fake material, referencing old fashioned copper pub tables. Perhaps humorously hinting at the required presence of Y-chromosome genes for normal male development, the shape of the object looks androgynously both like an X and a Y.
In a similar questioning of an object’s inherent value and hierarchy of materials McLardy has defaced a green faux tile painted column with pink bubblegum. Its ambiguously naughty title, ‘Putting our finger in the pie, we are the pie and the finger, and the putting’ does exactly that.
The Duchy, Glasgow, until Sat 25 Aug