Some futuristic forms have materialised at The Lightbox, looking like they fell out of space! We chat to David Worthington, the sci-fi sculptor behind Tomorrow's Children, to find out more about the artist and his Mid Century Modern sci-fi inspirations.
Family Tripod, 2006, Dhustone (DoloriteBasalt) © David Worthington (b. 1962)
You’ve trained in Barcelona and New York – how have these artistically renowned cities inspired you?
I went to Barcelona as I failed to get into art schools in London. There I was a “free student” at the art department of Barcelona University. That meant I could go in a couple of days a week but wasn’t officially on a BA program, and I learnt a lot from the stone carving teacher. But what being in Spain really did was open up my personality. Everyone should travel and live abroad. You get so much from other cultures, and you realize that there is no better or worse just different. In Barcelona I got to know the work of Jaume Plensa who was a big influence on me. New York exposed me to so many artists’ work, and ideas, who have been my inspirations ever since; Gonzalo Fonsecca, Walter Da Maria, Robert Smithson, Mike Heizer, and Donald Judd. Both experiences were fantastic.
Tomorrow's Children exhibition at The Lightbox © The Lightbox
How have you come to explore sculpture (which you refer to as evoking a ‘primal’ response from people) with science fiction?
My interest in science fiction comes from being a kid in the 1960s and watching TV. The series I loved were Thunderbirds, Joe 90, Captain Scarlett and then Star Trek. I would rush back from after-school clubs desperate not to miss them. Science fiction is all about being human. They are the modern equivalent of Medieval Knights tales. The genre explores politics, sexuality and human nature, whilst also appealing to our aspirations. The Tracy family home in Thunderbirds was a Mid Century Modern paradise.
By referencing Science Fiction into my work I am hoping to look at its relationship to Modernism. Artists such as Jacob Epstein and Henry Moore as well as many Europeans, especially from the Bauhaus school, created imagery that I believe inspired film design. The figure in Jacob Epstein’s Rock Drill is the first robot. Likewise, the robot in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is a wonderful sculpture, but clearly influenced by what was going on in the German art scene. This creative cross-fertilization has continued up to the present day.
I have a great love of the Thunderbirds 2 vehicle and the starship USS Enterprise but my referencing them is not from some Post Modern pop cultural perspective. I think these shapes were influenced by sculpture and likewise have influenced my own understanding of form and sculptural possibility.
Family from another place, 2010 © David Worthington
Unlike many artists, you encourage people to play and climb on your sculptures, which can often be manually rotated. Why is it important to you as the artist that viewers interact with the pieces?
Sculpture has a unique property amongst the arts in that like us it is three dimensional. So when we stand by a sculpture it reflects our physicality back to us. Like when we look at a tree or a boulder, we both can be in awe and yet re-assured. There is a natural desire to embrace, touch, climb upon sculpture. This is not facile but stirs from our deepest being. Sculpture both reaffirms our existence and yet points to mortality. It will still be here, hopefully, when we are gone. So I want where possible for the public to touch the work but also to climb upon it. Because then the the separation between audience and object is collapsed and the audience becomes part of the art.
David Worthington, picture courtesy of the artist
You have worked in stone, bronze, cement, tarmac, and paint. Could you explain more about your work with wax, and the connection to a material so divergent to stone?
I was drawn to wax because of it materiality. It’s very sculptural and is used for modelling in the bronze casting process. Initially I wanted to create drawings where the line was three dimensional. Then I discovered wax’s many interesting properties like luminosity, depth and physical presence. So I’m using it to create drawings that are sculptures.
David Worthington outside The Lightbox, courtesy of the artist.
Finally, if you could collaborate with one artist from history, who would it be and why?
Well I would be embarrassed to call myself a sculptor with Michelangelo in the room. So maybe Picasso because he was too impatient to stick with carving and in one area I would have had the upper hand. Apart from that he’s the greatest artist of the 20th Century and it would have been amazing to be around his creative energy.
Check out the exciting exhibition, David Worthington: Tomorrow's Children
24 October 2017 – 26 November 2017
Free entry | Donations welcome