Conrad Shawcross RA Elect

Imbued with an appearance of scientific rationality, Conrad Shawcross’s sculptures explore subjects that lie on the borders of geometry and philosophy, physics and metaphysics. Attracted by failed quests for knowledge in the past, he often appropriates redundant theories and methodologies to create ambitious structural and mechanical montages, using a wide variety of materials and media, and often working on an epic scale. Different technologies and natural forces inspire his forms, but his mysterious machines and structures remain enigmatic, filled with paradox and wonder. Some have an absurdist melancholy feel, while others tend to the sublime.

Although abstract in form, these sculptures often pay tribute to some of the great pioneers and analysts in the history of ideas, and consider a specific moment or figure from the past. Axiom, for instance, refers to the philosopher Otto Neurath’s epistemological metaphor of the boat and its rival the tower. In his metaphor we are all at sea, everything is in flux and all repair to ones hull must be carried while afloat. The structure, or argument, remains buoyant purely due to the strength of its interlocking parts – there’s no land and thus no certainty. The grouped tetrahedrons in Shawcross’s sculpture form an irrational structure, yet still dividing space up equally and systematically.


Born: 26 April 1977

Elected RA: 30 May 2013

Royal Academician