Interloper: The Beauty of Living Organisms (sculpture)

Fine Art


In 2016 RAMM hosted an exhibition by artist Michael Shaw. ‘Sculpting the Museum’ was a sculptural interpretation of RAMM. Shaw created work in response to the museum’s architecture and collections enabling a three-dimensional interpretation of physical location, as well as historical and natural objects.

‘Interloper’ is Shaw’s response to two missing display boards in ‘Sladen’s Study’, a gallery housing starfish and sea urchin expert Percy Sladen’s life’s work. Shaw’s sculptural forms echo the anatomical studies that line the walls, many of which are alcohol-bleached ghostly white. The work injects a splash of vibrancy into this Victorian space and draws the eye.


Most flowers are better than most sculptures, so too are many of the marine creatures in these collections. Might sculptures therefore be grown or developed in ways that mimic nature? Intriguingly, in On Growth and Form D’Arcy Thompson discusses variance in the morphology of living things in terms of deformation. Starting, as one might in CAD, with a ‘primitive’ shape, the circle, and deforming it in carious ways by stretching or bending radially.
One may also inflate form, an occurrence used to dramatic effect by the puffer fish, or indeed by many fish in their swim bladders to control their vertical depth in the water. Some evolutionary biologists hypothesise that the gaseous exchanges in swim bladders may be the origins of lungs and the respiratory systems of land mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds that enable oxygen extraction from the atmosphere. Much of my past work has used inflation to create site-specific inflatables, as in Gallery 22 and the models below.
Transparancy is a useful means of revelation, but contradictorily, one that can also make sculpture mysterious and visually chameleonic because transparent materials such as glass and resin distort reflections and refract light, Below are a series of sculptural hypotheses, a kind of sketchbook of ideas in three dimensions. Forms that might increase in size, change material, shift in meaning or deform in geometry. It is a tentative exploration of the sculptural language in search of beauty. In this quest, functionality can be set aside and unlike in nature, failure is not a matter of life or death!

This object is on display at RAMM in the Sladen's Study gallery.

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