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As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 13

"There is an inherent beauty in kinetic sculpture," says acclaimed sculptor Simon Gudgeon, in comment of his latest series of sculptures at the Halcyon Gallery. "For me it first came to mind when I was in New Zealand watching a George Rickey sculpture. I just found it mesmerising, the movement I think is what captivated me about kinetic sculpture." Most sculptures are rigid forms; they have a sense of permanence and solidarity, "Paintings are 2D, sculpture 3D and kinetic sculpture engages more because it has that movement, everyone is attracted to movement."

The new exhibition, is aptly named 'Transitions,' as "nothing is permanent, everything is moving, we sort of plan our lives however we are constantly adapting and changing. I remember watching a film called Sliding Doors, which is all about that. Miss one train, have to get on another and it changes your life through an unexpected event. We've got to keep adapting." 
"Making an object that is not essentially utilitarian defines humanity." The concept of kinetic art could be first seen with the Ancient Egyptians, in construction of the Great Pyramids, where they made particular use of the lever and the inclined plane, to aid in construction of the Great Pyramids. The 1950s saw an growing emergence of the kinetic art and visionaries such as Alexander Calder and George Rickey were largely responsible for the popularity of the movement, which lasted through to the late 1970s. The 21st century has seen a revival, with 'Transitions' seeming to strike a captivating chord during such economic and social times of change.

Gudgeon's work explores abstraction and form, sculpting primarily in bronze, "my other work, like Isis is all cast using the lost wax process or sand casting," for the kinetic sculpture however, "it's just been working on a whole new series and methodology. These are all fabricated by hand in my studio, which is why they are all unique pieces. In casting, you tend to have editions, but with the kinetic works, I learnt new skills like welding and soldering, cutting metals, its fascinating as you get a whole new skill level and it is very stimulating."

Born in Yorkshire in 1958, Gudgeon is now based in Pallington, Dorset, running a studio workshop beside 'Sculptures by the lake.' His background is also somewhat of a transition, after studying law at Reading University, he practised as a solicitor, starting painting only in his thirties and sculpting in his 40s. In depicting the natural world, he says he finds sculpture "lies closest to his heart," and there is "something magical about it." The sculpture park, as with his work, continues to be an evolutionary environment, as more works are added in situ. He is widely known for his observations and sculptures based on the wild, believing that "before you can sculpt a creature, you have to understand it and where it comes from."
Extensively travelled, having been to America, Africa and beyond, we ask how it impacts his work, "when you travel you see things, different shapes and images. A whole raft of things. You are in a much more receptive mood to when you are in a studio. You are away, you can't create so you tend to absorb, work out ideas. When I come back I often find myself more productive and fired up with ideas." The creative process first happens in the mind, "an idea enters my mind, be it a shape, a movement or an emotion and I simply want to convey it."

The Fibonacci sculpture is striking to behold, inspired by Fibonacci numbers and patterns in the universe, "I am fascinated by the golden ratio, and proportions which we naturally find attractive, primarily because they occur in nature." The Fibonacci code are numbers in a sequence. The first two numbers are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two. Gesturing at one section of  the piece, ‘this here is a Fibonacci spiral, which starts with a rectangle partitioned into 2 squares and then in each step we add to the rectangle's longest side a square of the same length. We see the sequence in how colonies breed, plants grow. It all links into nature and humanity has a connection with it."

Although elements of the natural world are still highly pronounced, their forms have now been acutely abstracted and many set in motion. We see the leaf form in one sculpture, expressing the changing nature and changing landscapes. In a piece entitled Venus, Gudgeon tells us it is "based on two interlocking circles," the vesica piscis or what is more commonly known as the "fish bladder". The length-height ratio of the vesica piscis, as expressed by Pythagoras is 153:265, a mystical number known as "the measure of the fish" and is associated with the goddess Venus and biblical stories.

The colours used in the works complement the shape, with each bronze patination mixed separately. "The patination colour is applied by heating up the metal with a gas blow torch and applying chemicals. It is almost a corrosion on the exterior of the bronze and the wax polish seals the patina." There is also a chemical reaction that can occur with the environment, "you can bury a piece in the garden for a couple of years and the acids in the soil will colour it, but you have no control. Similarly if you don't keep the wax polish on, it will change colour, oxidise with air. Bronze is primarily copper, so you will get some green's that come through. An outdoor piece needs maintenance, two of three times a year."

There is a beauty and grace in Gudgeon's sculptures and we sense that he is in awe of the natural world, perhaps also trying to make sense of what defines our connection to it. I am drawn to one of the more recently finished pieces, Pinus, which is based on a pine tree shape. "I'm fascinated by gravity and how you get this all to balance." Each branch section delicately balances on a point. It is utterly mesmerising, and often fans are used to facilitate gentle movements, allowing it to spin. "Everything is in flux, everything is in motion. I was talking to a friend of mine who suffers from bipolar disorder who was quite disturbed by it at first, however, when he relaxed, he was transfixed and almost calmed in a way - when you accept the movement and don't try to impose order, a serenity emerges."

Interview and Portrait
Nardip Singh
Exhibition and sculpture images
supplied by Halcyon Gallery
Copyright © Simon Gudgeon

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