Conversation with Keith Tyson

What are your sculptures made from?

It is an interesting question actually because they are made of polycarbonate, which is made from carbon, and they’ve got a graphite patina. Carbon for me is the most fundamental form of life. Most organic life is made from carbon, and as an artist, the most simple way you can draw is with a pencil on paper. When you think about it: a pencil contains graphite, which is carbon, and you draw on paper, which is made from wood also containing carbon.

What links all these forms? What is the connection between the cowboy and the women?

Well they are all “Contemporary Grotesques”, which means that they are unaware of how ridiculous they have become in pursuing dance, bodybuilding, overcoming nature, etc. In other words they have an identity, which proclaims that they are different, where in fact they have forgotten their essential similarity – their similarity of carbon. They’ve forgotten that we’re all from the same energy and I guess human beings feel essentially isolated from nature and this is about how they form the forms they form.

What do you mean by “isolated from Nature”?

People would say that there are some things, which are artificial, and some things, which are natural. For instance, a skyscraper is seen as artificial while a termite hill is seen as natural, but in fact they are both consequences of nature. We make things but we are part of nature, we’re not separated, it is the ego that makes us separated. Because the ego is separated, it comes up with a lot of solutions of how it should live its life… and this is a kind of contemporary version of that.

In English the word “Grotesque” means more “Gargoyle” or “Monster” … Are these meant to be monstrous or hideous in some way?

They are the external manifestation of a psychological state. So when the “gargoyles” were on the outside of a church, they were about keeping out “demons”, or what they called “demons”, which are really “inner states” that we all have as human beings. All my work has a sense of unity; there is a great interdependent dynamic, as the Buddhists would say. Everything interdependently emerges; everything is connected to everything else. In the Western world we separate everything and control everything, and really this is a way of making those “Gargoyles” for the rest of the world…to put things outside in some way…

The sculptures are very highly crafted. Is that important to you?

While being “Grotesques”, they are also based on classical sculptures. I wanted them to be beautiful, in form, in a classical way that has maybe been forgotten a little. I wanted the viewer to be attracted to the sculpture as a beautiful, desirable object, and then be repulsed by the subject matter. So the interplay between form and subject makes an emotional pull and push. This attraction and repulsion is what I wanted from them. I wanted a very classical show very “Victor Hugo” and “Gothic” but about contemporary conditions really…

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