Richard Deacon – Some Time!


Middelheim Museum is a sculpture park in the South of Antwerp. An easy bike ride from our lovely home and that's exactly how we got there. The Museum is 30 acres and is part of the Nachtegalen Park. We've visited a few times for a winter walk or to bask in the sunshine but this visit was to see Richard Deacon's latest solo show, Some Time.

Some Time is named for its close association with the passing of time, the indeterminate nature of periods of time and the considered, meticulous, and therefore time-consuming, artistic process of Deacon’s work.

Richard Deacon CBE is a British sculptor. He's been at the forefront of visual arts since the 80's. His work is made mainly from everyday materials such as laminated wood, stainless steel, corrugated iron, polycarbonate, marble, clay, vinyl, foam and leather. As he explained in an interview in 2005, “Changing materials from one work to the next is a way of beginning again each time (and thus of finishing what had gone before)” Deacon calls himself a fabricator:

'The sculptures that I made are, in most cases, neither carved or modelled - the two traditional means of making sculpture - but assembled from parts. I am therefore a fabricator and what I make are fabrications' – Richard Deacon

Deacon won the Turner Prize in 1987 for his work 'For Those Who Have Eyes' and in 2014 the Tate held a large-scale retrospective of his work. In the interim he's represented Wales at the Venice Biennale 2007 and the Architecture Biennale in 2012 to name only a few.

Excited to see his work we parked our velos up and set off on the hunt for the 31 pieces he's exhibiting in the space. The work is spread out throughout the park which means it's intermingled with other permanent and non-permanent work making it feel a little like a treasure hunt.

The most exciting piece (above, left) in the space and the image plastered all over the Richard Deacon posters and flyers throughout the city, is re-fabrication of one of his most famous pieces, Never Mind. Originally created in 1993 when Antwerp was the Cultural Capital of Europe, the Middelheim Museum acquired the piece. Then, Never Mind was made from wood, now 24 years on and in collaboration with the Museum, Deacon has created a stainless steel version for the space and it's magnificent. When you enter the garden, it's aligned perfectly with the grounds. A little spooky and alien-looking as it stands so perfectly, it looks as though it could travel.

This is similar to Bikini, found in the Braem Pavilion, a wood and aluminium sculpture which evokes images of some aquatic vehicle or strange Verne-esque flying machine.
'Richard Deacon belongs to a generation of artists who continue to keep the relevance and importance of sculpture at the forefront, especially in a context where the connection between material and ceoncept becomes ever more complex.' – Sara Weyns, Director at the Middelheim Museum

Some of my favourite pieces of Deacon's work are those sculptures without legs and plinths, they sit so well within the Middelheim grounds, as though the scenery has been made around them. I love how differently the work compares to that already in the permanent collection. I really enjoyed the vast variety of Deacon's work shown in the space, from the stainless steel works spotted around the gardens to the colourful ceramic pieces inside some of the galleries.

Close to Never Mind was Masters Of The Universe #1, a favourite of mine. As you walk across the lawn towards it, it's difficult to distinguish exactly what it's made from, it's covered in a buffered/etched texture. As you get closer it still looks as though it could be moved and its function changed. I think I like it most because it looks a bit like one of those old school magnetic toys.

Inside The House was a small selection of pieces. There were two wooden and steel sculptures (I Remember (1), 2012 and I Remember (3) 2013) both similar in design. The wooden strips look as though they've been twisted and turned to create these inter-twining pieces. Deacon leaves the screws and bolts visible to always remind the viewer of the process.

'With these kinds of designs you have to keep asking yourself if the choices that you make are important for you as an artist or if you make them because a technician claims that it has to be done that way.' - Deacon

The work varies massively as you wander through the museum. From large stainless steel pieces to smaller glazed ceramic like Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow 'B' and 'H'. Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow 'B' is a green slimey looking piece, again with no plinth and looks as if it has just glided across the ground like a slug or worm. The name and the meaning are linked to its circuit-like aspect and suggests the passage of time and Deacon's anguish as to how the work of art is 'situated' in time. The Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow series is made up of X amount of pieces. Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow 'H' is a beautiful shade of blue, it's another free-standing sculpture which sits directly on the floor. The importance of colour is a key feature of Deacon’s ceramic work, marking it out from the rest of his work which is usually coloured naturally. This adds a dimension explored in these ceramics which is striking in its experimental nature.

Middelheim is the perfect setting for Deacon's variety of work. The fact it's laid out throughout the grounds does make it feel like an adventure to find his pieces. Deacon’s process, that of a fabricator, is an example of the intersection between sculpture and product design, where artistic expression meets industrial precision. Some Time will be on view at Middelheim Museum Antwerp until the 24th September 2017 and features 31 works by Richard Deacon CBE.
All works featured by Richard Deacon: Never Mind, 1993-2017. Masters Of The Universe #1 2005. I Remember (3), 2013. I Remember (1), 2012. Infinity #31, 2006. Bikini, 1992. Small Time, 2015. Tomorrow and Tomorrow And Tomorrow 'H', 1999. Tomorrow and Tomorrow And Tomorrow 'B', 2000. Something Else Works, 2013.

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