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Tools of Trades: Articulating Sculptural Practice

Jyrki Siukonen
Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki

Jon Wood
Henry Moore Institute, Leeds

The huge publishing industry that has grown up around art, and the wealth of writing it has generated, often seems out of synch with the unarticulated realities of actual art making, and with what we might call the silence of the studio. This session, jointly convened by an artist and by an art historian, invites discussion of the non-verbal activities of studio practice – about the experience of different kinds of soft and hard materials, about scale, about heavy labour and repetitive craft, about acquired knowledge and experimentation.

Some artists (such as Bruce Nauman) have made this issue a subject for work itself – using photography, film and text – and other artists (such as Brancusi) have written insightfully about it. Many sculptors have articulated their practice not in terms of art theory, but rather as users of tools. This is a much dismissed and understudied aspect of the history of sculpture writing and one that we would like re-engage with. We thus invite papers that focus on the language of tools and manual work, and that look at how the processes of making sculpture have been articulated not only by historic and contemporary artists, but also by art historians. We welcome papers that focus on more experimental and conceptual approaches to sculpture, as well as on more traditional processes such as carving and modelling, and we encourage comparative analysis of the languages and metaphors used by different professional groups to communicate sculpture making. We also welcome collaborative as well as individual presentations.