The Autonomous Object

Peter Hardy & Stephen Towns
An exhibition of sculpture 25th June – 19th July 2013

What determines the appearance of an artwork?  For both sculptors, the answer to this question would be “the investigation of the external world”.  They have spent many years pursuing their individual investigation into very specific aspects of the external world and work is made as the means to consolidate this understanding.  This gives their work an initial sense of familiarity, these sculptures remind us of familiar objects, yet on closer examination they are also new to our experience.  Both artists acknowledge their own subjective responses and it is this that gives the work its particular identity.  Thus these sculptures are mediators between the external objective world and the internal subjective world of the artist.
At first glance all the work in this exhibition appears to be abstract, yet both sculptors produce objects in direct response to selected data concerned with an exploration of the underlying causal factors that determine forms. The work therefore is referential rather than imitative or mimetic.
Pete Hardy investigates both natural, organic forms and man-made designed objects.  His work explores the processes of sense perception, both in terms of the apparatus employed (sense organs and man- made instruments) and the raw data experienced.  His sculptures have the appearance of instruments that may monitor data, e.g. sound, through a process of filtration. Information is the outcome of some form of processing and it is this ‘act’ of processing that is a central concern in his work.  The materials and methods he employs, however, appear to use the language of the mass-produced rather than the hand made, (which they are) and this only seems to heighten their paradoxical nature.
Stephen Towns’ work explores the structural processes inherent in growth, and he has been particularly influenced by D’Arcy Thompsons work, especially his treatise on Cartesian transformations of basic structures.  These sculptures explore the utilisation of linear elements within a grid that undergoes simple arithmetical transformations, using chance.  Thus these forms are generated as a minimal energy swept surface between fixed points.  The structures are therefore determined by systematic processes, but their surface qualities utilise physical processes in their generation.  Stephen identifies a similar interface between intrinsic and extrinsic forces in operation in natural form.  The method of manufacture of the forms is precise, yet the surface qualities have a “random” quality, yet is itself governed by physical processes that are similar to those observed in  fractals e.g. in clouds etc.
Thus both artists have developed their own working practice that incorporate decision making criteria that transcend the subjective.  Further, both artists minimise the individuality of the hand- made processes used in order to promote the autonomy of the work. It is this that connects their work and gives it evocative visual qualities that transcend the individual.
Stephen Towns & Peter Hardy