For images of the artwork see here

Project description

Obscene beasts and corpses | Bwystfilod Aflan a Chyrff

This page outlines a project proposal for a new production of my sculptural artwork and its resulting touring exhibition.

Detail of drawing of Cell 1 sculpture.Drawing of Cell 2 (detail).Coloured drawing of Cell 2 (detail).Drawing of Cell 3 sculpture (detail).Design of Cell 3 sculpture (detail).



“we enjoy looking at accurate likenesses of things which are themselves painful to see, obscene beasts, for instance, and corpses.”1

“Over the millennia in their cultures, humans make an increasing exodus from nature.” 2

Humanity’s visual impact on the environment has informed much of my recent artwork.3
I question why human nature is estranged from all other forms of nature. 4 For instance, Is human action alone defined as cultural and deliberated, whereas everything else is natural and spontaneous?

“Nature is opposed to Art, and natural to artificial.” 5

These ideas inform and shape my art’s appearance. For example I use a machine to effect it’s making and outcome. For that reason my work can have an engineered quality. Likewise it may seem to have functionality and purpose. The sculptures may also resemble a machine or else be toy-like. They can often have an anthropomorphic quality. And may have shapes associated with the human figure. These associations are intentionally ambiguous. They are a meant as a kind of devised hybridity. It is like modelling an Exquisite Corpse.6 in three dimension. I use this polymorphing (or mimetic) method to imagine, sculpturally a struggle of both natural and artificial forces in opposition.

Themes for this project

This project expands on these ideas within a cosmogonic7 metaphor on origin itself. By which I refer to the creation story associated with Adam and Eve’s expulsion from paradise. That story could be said to question or even deny the place of culture in nature. Here I am using that story to influence, in my sculpture the same question in the context of our present circumstances.

Project Source material and inspiration.

The three colour images below show details from a triptych painting known as The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1490-1505) by Hieronymus Bosch. This painting, “is popular (today) because we can see surreal images of our own, modern existence in it.” 8. Its (500 year old) message linking temptation to disaster may be as relevant then as now.9

Most now see the message of the painting as being a dire “warning of the punishments awaiting all who indulge”.10 The first and third panels display scenes associated with the innocence of Eden and nature’s revenge in The Last Judgment. However, the second panel continues to divide opinion as to whether it represents a moral warning or a panorama of paradise lost. That panel seems to celebrate human nature11 It is seen by some as Utopian,”..a place filled with the intoxicating air of perfect liberty”.12. Others also consider the fall of man in a positive light, noting that it is not worth being innocent if the price is ignorance.13

As with that painting, this project has a triptych structure representing before, during and after (the fall)14.

Source material. Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch

Detail from the left panel shows the first moment of conscious awakening. It may also represent the start of humanity’s partition from (all other) nature?

Detail from the central panel. The people seem to be at one with nature. The general gleefulness seems to suggest this is an era of self-absorbed happiness. However, some also say it warns of the resulting perils of excess and over-indulgence.

Detail from third panel showing the ‘Tree Man’. Does this show a hell on earth, in which a vengeful nature punishes humans?

Proposed sequence of Cell structures.

Cell 1. Human and tree-like forms are here combined in the mechanics of fruitfulness and harvest.

Cell 2. This frame displays a totemic representation of an upright body with arms outstretched. The appendages are represented through exaggerated scale and caricatured purpose.

Cell 3. This cell’s content includes broken forms derived in-part from the two previous cells.

Project description.

The main structure of this project consists of three groups of sculptures as roughly outlined above. The three part device is important to the relevance of the theme.The actual outcome may differ greatly in detail. An allowance for experimentation and chance to influence the result is essential to my work. For example, the frame structures may be abandoned as being unnecessarily distracting.

Scale and Materials.

  • Each of the three cells are approximately 3 metres in height, width and depth.
  • The materials used throughout are mainly thought of as being oak. Oak as a material is relevant to the project theme of incorporating a natural material influence. Oak also has a tendency to continue to move, shrink, crack  and change and so effect the outcome long after the making is done.Where suitable, I may also use plaster, wax, concrete and paint.

Cell 1. Tree-man.

The first cell contains shapes reminiscent of both tree and human anatomy. Such shapes are repeated through history as symbols of forbidden fruit. These plants often have forms which are also anthropomorphic. Often what I like about these grotesques is the aesthetic of an ugly beauty.


Some of the swollen branches or limbs in these drawings is reminiscent of the Dragon Tree.15 shown to the right of Adam in The Garden of Earthy Delights.

The body-like shape is also similar to the seed of a Tamarind tree 16, which is thought to symbolise faithfulness.

I love Piccasso’s hideous representation of Franco 17 in The Dream and Lie of Franco as a kind of mandrake or tuberous sweet potato.

Cell 1 sculpture design. Tree / body theme with ballooned branchesCell 1. Tree / body theme with elongated limbs.Cell 1 – Tree / figure sculpture drawing. Constructed in OakCell 1 sculpture drawing. Overall height is about 3 metres

Cell 1. Variations

Two or more freestanding objects are shown in some of these drawings. These include two main subjects –

Firstly. A large tree like object with a central form resembling the human body and head shape.

Secondly. A more obviously figurative object with arms etc. Suspended and balanced as if able to rotate. One side is male the other female.

Cell 1. Design showing two sculptures in one spaceTree / body sculpture with multiple elongated branches.Tree figure sculpture drawing. Height about 2.5 metresCell-1b

Cell 2.

The upright figure shown here contains many shapes. Some of which resemble parts of the human anatomy and its associated function. My exaggeration of these shapes is inspired by representations of the body, including the following examples. –

a) Vitruvian Man.18 The proportions of the human figure according to the roman architect Vitruvius. As drawn by Leonardo da Vinci.

b) The Large Glass by Marcel Duchamp.19This conceptual artwork seems to  view of the body as being merely a vessel of mechanical functions.

c) Cortical Homunculus.20 A grotesque representation of the human body parts and organs as scaled in terms of its sensual priority.

Cell 2. Drawing of sculpture to scaleCell 2. Sculpture imagined displayed in bright colours.Cell 2. sculpture drawing showing freestanding statue

Cell 3.

Finally, the third structure repeats some of the shapes displayed in the two previous structures.

In one drawing here the sculpture is fragmented, blackened and fallen. Another variation shows a jagged stump-like shape placed near a figure pierced by many spikes or pins. A third design imagines the shapes in purely sculptural form. And takes the form of a cluster of massive thorn-like objects.

Cell 3. Broken tree / fallen manCell-3-black

Cell 3. Variations.

This variation considers the contents in purely sculptural abstract form. The resulting objects resemble shards of broken objects or thorns.

I like the idea that art, like science attempts to break things apart to see what is within.

Cell 3. Thorn design drawing showing scale.Cell 3. Imagined ‘broken thorn’ sculptures. Height 3m