Tony Cragg RA, 'Frame', 2012. Wood. 167 x 158 x 150 cm. © the artist. Courtesy Lisson Gallery, London. Tony Cragg RA follows up his treasure hunt of large-scale sculptures around London’s Exhibition Road with an exhibition at the Lisson Gallery until mid-January. But, as the Academician explained to Richard Cork in a recent interview in RA Magazine, the show’s gallery context does not mean a reduction in ambition; the exhibition is ‘almost boiling over with energy’, presenting highly dynamic works from this year that develop further the types of forms seen in South Kensington.
Cragg’s ‘Rational Beings’ series takes centre stage. These are works comprised of numerous disc-like smooth shapes stacked together at such diverse angles and points of intersection that they appear a blur of restless movement. Human profiles provide some of the starting points for these pieces, but the majority are abstracted far beyond any recognisable bodily forms.
Tony Cragg RA, 'Group', 2012. Wood. 325 x 236 x 286 cm © the artist. Courtesy Lisson Gallery, London.
Tony Cragg RA, 'Off The Mountain', 2012. Stone (black) 85 x 80 x 55 cm. © Tony Cragg. Courtesy Lisson Gallery, London. Photography by Michael Richter. Material is a source of experimentation; sumptuous black stone marked with geological veins of white and beige is the basis of Off the Mountain, its title a reminder of the material’s provenance, while the pulsating disc shapes of the wooden sculptures Frame and the monumental Group echo the growth rings found in a tree trunk.
In Marble, Cragg also sees what happens when his oscillating discs are constricted to a spherical shape: the fluidity of the more linear stacks is replaced by a sense of fury, as the discs seem to fight for space within the ball’s volume. Downstairs, two works from the sculptor’s ‘Early Forms’ series – Cubic and Turning Point – also collapse in on themselves. Cast in bronze but with the appearance of rubber or leather, these works are like thick three-dimensional calligraphy that curls into knots.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine