Issue Number: 114
With several shows in the pipeline for 2012, the artist who revolutionised sculpture by taking it off the plinth is still breaking new ground in his ninth decade. Richard Cork visits him at his studio complex in north London
Anthony Caro RA, 'Cubic', 2010, showing at Roche Court © New Art Centre, Roche Court Sculpture Park. Although now in his 88th year, Anthony Caro RA shows no sign of slowing down. On the contrary, this irrepressible sculptor has planned an ambitious range of projects for 2012. He conveys an infectious enthusiasm for them when I enter his immense London studio complex in the heart of Camden. Darting with impressive speed between buildings, Caro tells me that he and his wife, the painter Sheila Girling, are off to Mauritius on holiday: ‘I can’t wait, because I love swimming!’ But making sculpture has always been his main stimulus. ‘I’ve been very busy, and the thing about showing your work is that it’s quite a performance.’
Not least at Chatsworth, where Caro has been invited by the Duke of Devonshire to hold a major outdoor exhibition. It is the first time an artist has been given a solo show in the Chatsworth garden. Caro leads me towards a room that houses a vast model for the exhibit. He has ranged his work around the long stretch of water leading towards the south lawn and Chatsworth House itself. At the far end, his brightly painted steel sculptures from the 1960s explode with energy. Then, the Flats series, made in rusted and varnished steel in the 1970s,
introduces a more austere vision, culminating at the
other end in the monumental Goodwood Steps (1996).
‘I think this piece has a good dialogue with the house itself,’ says Caro. ‘In the past, I was always rather against showing outdoors,’ he says. ‘I reacted against the whole pastoral thing that Henry Moore liked [Caro was Moore’s assistant 1951-53]. I was urban, and always felt that sculpture needed containment. You can easily dwarf sculpture in formal gardens.’ But after he made Goodwood Steps and showed it outdoors, Caro changed his mind. ‘I still don’t like places that are too rural but at Chatsworth, the fact that the water is man-made helps the exhibition, and it’s all focused around the water.’
House Field, 2011, from Caro’s ‘House’ series, on show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. © Anthony Caro/Courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. He also admires the sylvan setting at the New Art Centre, Roche Court, near Salisbury, which is staging a show of Caro’s reliefs and standing sculpture. The relief works, made mostly in 2010 in resin, fibreglass and wood, will astonish even those who are familiar with Caro’s output. ‘I was in a hotel in Rome and thought: “My god, this wash basin is sculptural!” he explains. ‘So I started casting wash basins and lavatories. It was fun to do, and they’re completely different. Who wants to make the old trademark stuff?’
The tireless Caro is also exhibiting at Jubilee Park in London’s Canary Wharf. And at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, Caro is revealing his fascination with architecture when he shows ‘small, shining bronzes, all polished and with titles like _House Guard,
House Hold_ and House Field.’ All these works are reminiscent of buildings, reflecting Caro’s belief that ‘architecture is as close to sculpture as painting is. I think architects and sculptors should train together,’ he says. And Caro, standing now in the middle of a vast studio full of assistants making his new work, grins as he acknowledges ‘I’ve had a productive time.’
Looking around, I realise that London would benefit enormously from the presence, in a prominent metropolitan setting, of a major Caro. But when he offered his Millbank Steps to Westminster City Council, Caro tells me: ‘They looked around for a location and said: “Sorry, we don’t want it.” I had offered it to them for free!’ The councillors should be ashamed of themselves, and lose no time in finding a suitable spot where Caro’s prowess as a sculptor can be celebrated.