BAWDEN, Lionel, 1974
'esque - thoughts brought forth by our fingers, 2000 - 2001
coloured pencils, lead pencils, linseed oil
approximate installed size 120.0 cm x 300.0 cm x 300.0 cm
Q: The scale of 'esque - thoughts brought forth by our fingers is substantially more impressive than earlier works of yours. What are your thoughts on the evolution of your work from a collection of almost individual amulets to this virtual landscape of the imagination?
A: My earlier works were conceived as talismans - invested with meaning through handling. With an increase in scale, 'esque... invites a different kind of engagement - an environment to be observed from different perspectives. I've used about 30,000 pencils in making the work - first glued together in blocks, one pencil at a time, and finished by hand. During the sanding process I work within a cloud of coloured dust. While I'm working on a particular piece, I'm thinking constantly about how to bring its shape into being and as the surface patterns emerge, the structure of the final object starts to appear. I see the surface as both skin and interior of the piece - the surface patterns reflecting the nature of the constituent materials. So there is also a sense that each object takes on a life of its own during the making.
Q: That brings me to my next point - there appear to be quite direct references to landscape and organic forms in your work - while simultaneously, an abiding interest in the 'unnatural' realm seems to prevail. Do you consciously employ this ambiguity in your work?
A: The sense of landscape in 'esque... is of a realm of shape-shifting possibilities, reflecting on the shared experience of the act of looking, not only at landscape, but at a variety of objects, including notional references to the 'natural' environment, the internal landscape of the body and objects common to domestic living. In the same way that the material of the forms - the pencils - are familiar to almost everyone's experience, I want the forms themselves to be highly accessible and able to trigger a broad range of associations. I like to think of the forms as conduits for meaning rather than anything representational. So ambiguity of meaning and material presence is part of the work. The questioning of 'the natural' fascinates me. Is the bulk of human production unnatural, or just an expansion of what is possible in the natural world?
Lionel Bawden in conversation with Mark Bayly, September 2001
Pencils aren't merely lead and wood. They're thoughts brought forth by your fingers.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
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