Models of each sculpture Caro has made
Fine Art students with Sir Anthony Caro and tutor Jenny Dunseath.
Close up of Caro’s new crushed steel sculpture incorporating perspex.
Well, visiting Caro’s studio was pretty amazing. An unsuspecting side street in Camden town led to expansive out buildings filled with his massive abstract steel sculptures and impressive small models of each sculpture ever made of which accounts to over 5000 as informed by Pat, Tony’s right hand man and engineer.
We chatted to Caro over tea and biscuits and it was then I realised how revolutionary Caro really is at 88 years old and still working in his studio everyday. The idea of the studio being redundant therefore seemed to make Caro frustrated. He seemed annoyed that people could make artwork from their laptop on the sofa. This is understandable when you see his studio with all of it’s equipment, assistants and the fork lift! He is certainly not taking the easy option. But is ‘non studio work’ like performance art the easy way out? For example are the performances to be hosted in Tate Modern’s underground oil tanks costing £215 million and dedicated to live art any less reputable?
This lead us on to discuss the definition of sculpture, yes, a massive topic and one that is impossible to determine. Sculpture is something made, created and about verbs and ‘doing’ as Holly suggests above. This lead me to think that perhaps it is more about who it is making the work. If you are an artist then does that make what you are producing acceptable? Artistic licenses is perhaps where I am going here.
Thinking through making is important in my own practice and Caro’s too. What I took away from our visit to the studio was there must be both: thinking and making. Caro and his assistants seem to have regular conversations around their table that are different to those in the workshop, those are decisions that have to be made on the spot. As useful as the conversation at the studio was, it would be nothing if it wasn’t applied to art work or shared in a place like this forum which is of course virtual and touches on the debate of ‘virtual versus physical conversation’.
Material relationships and physicality went hand in hand and are part of the reason why Tony feels the need to come in to his studio and over see his assistants. His most recent work now involves using coloured perspex as a stark contrast to the dense steel. Just a sneaky look at his bronze casts of objects ranging from a handbag to shells shows how important and current Caro’s material and formal knowledge is.
I would like to end on a quotation from Caro himself when he was discussing how to know when to stop, “it’s finished when it says yes to me.” This is a very personified way of working, showing the relationship Caro has with his artwork, the materials and the physicality created. Can you relate to this or does the process/ technique tell you when the work is finished?