Art@Site Tony Cragg The Fanatics

Tony Cragg


The Fanatics

Tokyo Midtown, Akasaka
An artwork has a mystery
This is a tall, slim pillar, made of discs. The disks are of varying thickness that are fused together. That's a good thing too; otherwise the column would break and fall apart. This artwork is about ‘dazing’and ‘being together’.
It’s not clear what is dazing and is being together. Perhaps we might say that any good artwork has a mystery; a thing which continues to fascinate, to move, to captivate, to enchant. The work by Cragg is fascinating but does not move my emotions, does not make me enchant beauty. The fascination is due the accumulation of the strange discs.
To me, it’s unclear what Cragg wants to say. If these discs were coins, than the artwork is maybe about a fragile economy. However, these disks would also be wheels or, mirrors and would have a different meaning.
The Fanatics by Tony Cragg is raising a lot of questions to me; from what is it composed of? How find these elements their solidity? This provides me a feeling which is something between irritation and fascination.
By Theo,

Een kunstwerk heeft een mysterie
Dit is een hoge slanke zuil die opgebouwd lijkt uit schijven. Het zijn schijven van verschillende dikte die met elkaar versmolten zijn. Dat is maar goed ook; anders zou de zuil breken en uiteen vallen. Een ding is mij duidelijk: dit werk gaat over ‘wankeling’ en over ‘bijeen blijven’.
Het is niet duidelijk wat er wankel is en bijeen blijft. Misschien zouden we mogen zeggen dat elk goed kunstwerk een mysterie heeft; iets blijft fascineren, ontroeren, betoveren. Het werk van Cragg is fascinerend maar heeft voor mij niet zozeer een betoverende schoonheid, het brengt mij niet in ontroering. De fascinatie komt door de stapeling van de vreemde schijven.
Daarmee is ook onduidelijk wat Cragg zeggen wil. Als deze schijven muntstukken zouden zijn, gaat het werk misschien over een wankele economie. Maar deze schijven zouden ook wielen of spiegels kunnen zijn en hebben dan een andere betekenis.
The Fanatics van Tony Cragg roept bij mij veel vragen op; uit welke elementen is het samengesteld? Hoe zorgen deze elementen voor stevigheid? Dit levert bij mij een gevoel op dat ligt tussen irritatie en fascinatie.
By Theo,
Cragg's sculptural œuvre was originally motivated by his encounter with English Land Art and Performance and is still distinguished by its surprising formal innovations and combinations. His horizontal extension of the biomorphic form is reminiscent of futurist Italian speed fanatics like Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla, while the verticality of his pillar-like sculptures brings to mind Constantin Brancusi, who similarly arrived at a reduction of the natural form through his abstract formal language.
One of the most unique qualities about Cragg’s sculptural process is the primacy of the material. Through a radically experimental approach of using material and forms shaping the world around us, he draws attention to the broader social significance of these materials in his creation of new forms. Frequently applying techniques such as stacking, layering and heaping different types of materials and everyday objects, he arrives at unexpected interpretations. As he explains, 'making a new form gives us a new word, give us a new term, gives us a new emotion. Sculpture expands the possibilities of our own horizon and allows us to expand our imagination.'
Tony Cragg: 'As the poet uses the words on the page and the painter the colour on the palette to extend themselves to search for new forms and meanings, the sculptor uses materials as an extension of himself.'
The Fanatics is a characteristic example of Tony Cragg’s sculpture, which is deeply rooted in the British modernist sculpture tradition brought to its heights by Henry Moore.
Like Moore, Cragg’s work is about form, material and the world at large. In The Fanatics, Cragg creates a powerful visual experience through the use of highly abstract, expressive forms that are full of energy and are reminiscent of a tornado. The reflective nature of steel along with swirling shapes, that in places reveal the outlines of human faces, creates the sense of movement, explosiveness and engages the viewer with its fullness of life. The sculpture is striking with its monumentality that adds another emotional, dramatic aspect to it.
Cragg creates objects that exist outside of the familiar utilitarian world that we live in, that live in our dreams, our sub-consciousness that anyone can somehow relate to. These forms are opened for interpretation, which makes them highly engaging and interesting. They open up the dialogue between the work and the viewer on different levels: visually – through the reflective surface of the sculpture, and mentally – through evoking references to one’s personal inner world, their dreams. In the artist’s own words: 'There are thousands and thousands of other forms that don’t yet exist. These could also be valuable, and they are valuable, because they still could provide meaning, they could still be used as metaphors, they could still be used as language, and they could still be used in thoughts and fantasies and dreams, and so on … and those freedoms that they represent are basically still in our head, and the best way to use our head is to have a great language to work in. And so I think that to improve the visual language that you are working with is what sculptors want to do.'
Tony Cragg Executed The Fanatics in 2006. Cragg represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1988 and was awarded the Turner Prize in the same year. In 2008, the artist opened Waldfrieden, the major sculptural foundation and a 30-acre outdoor sculpture park in Wuppertal, Germany.
He has lived in Germany since 1977 where contemporary art played an important role in reviving post-war society. It became a place where Cragg could fully express himself artistically and was able to transform his favourite medium – sculpture. According to the artist, 'we have gone beyond the stage where we can just represent things in sculpture. We have to find new means of expression, a new visual language.'
Sources: Tony Cragg, interviewed by Jon Wood in T. Cragg, C. Brockhaus, R. Kudielka, C. Schneegass, Tony Cragg: In and Out of Material, Köln: Walther König, 2007; Tony Cragg in R. Conway Morris, ‘Inventing a 'new visual language'’, International Herald Tribune, 14 October 2010, p. 12)
Tony Cragg was born in Liverpool. He studied art at Gloucestershire College of Arts and Technology, Cheltenham, from 1968 to 1970, and painting at the Wimbledon School of Art, London, from 1970 to 1973. The same year he went on to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London, completing an MA in 1977.
Throughout the 1990s Cragg continued to develop two larger groups of work that have sustained his production up to the present: the "Early Forms" and the "Rational Beings".
The Early Forms series investigate the possibilities of manipulating everyday, familiar containers and the ways in which they can morph into and around one another in space. The sculptures derive their profiles and contours from simple, tick-walled vessels such as chemistry vessels, plastic bottles and mortars.
The surface of these initial objects are extended and contorted until new, sculpturally independent forms of movement arise. Through these processes of manipulation the initial objects develop new lines and contours, positive and negatively curving surfaces and volumes, protrusions and deep recessing folds.
The broad field of containers and vessels used function as metaphors for cell, organ, organism or body. The Early Forms can be characterized as forms transmutating along a bilaterally curved axis, often with organic, even figurative, qualities.
The Rational Beings are describable as organic looking forms often made of carbon fibre on a core of polystyrene. These sculptures derive their forms from the contours of gestural drawings, which Cragg then translates into the third dimension using thick, circular or oval discs which are superimposed (often vertically), glued together and covered with a skin. The underlying structure of these sculptures gives their skin the tension of a membrane, reflecting the basic structures of many organisms, organs, plants and animals.