ROBERTS, Neil, 1954-2002
metal, canvas and wood object; glass and lead
167.0 cm x 87.0 cm x 116.0 cm
Courtesy of Helen Maxwell Gallery, Canberra
Q: Would you describe Ramp?
A: Ramp is a canvas and metal vaulting horse that has been remounted vertically onto the wall. The surface is encased in a leaded glass rendering of a section of the skylight of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York. In part, it is about the idea that there is a relationship between the 'sweet spot' of sporting activity or apparatus and of the kind of architectural endeavour that is embodied in something like the Guggenheim.
In athletic terms, the sweet spot is the expression of the relationship that can develop between the athlete and the apparatus. It is like an energy zone within the material that could be captured or pictured, if only we knew how. It also exists in architecture, a certain point within a space where all the forms and volumes described in that space work at their peak. The Wright skylight has a coming-together of lines that imply such a spot. Personally, the sweet spot is also part of a kind of utopian metaphor for a way of being that is about fit or belonging in a very fractured world.
Q: As a wall work, Ramp has some affinities with painting
A: The first action of any consequence that happens in this work is the shift of the vault from the horizontal 'functional' position onto a vertical wall. In relationship to the skylight, this transposition shifts the viewer from looking across the surface of the apparatus towards a sense of looking down into it. The relationship of the apparatus to the body is made new. The transposition also removes the vault from its original function and places its canvas surface into conventional pictorial space, although that pictorial space is then projected outwards into the space normally reserved for sculpture. The object ends up straddling two realms.
Q: How does sport relate to your work?
A: Sport is an obvious extension of my interest in arenas of masculinity. A lot of my work of the last twenty years has somehow dealt with the kinds of energy that are often (but not exclusively) most visible in men's lives. It's an interest in the capture and release of such energy. It's always been about trying to picture the kind of energy embedded or embodied in objects and the strange possibilities of their associations. Sport is one way that we see that input and expenditure of energy; in sport it is concentrated, contained and momentarily made visible.
Neil Roberts in response to questions from Elena Taylor, September 2001
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