James Capper

8 April - 14 May 2017

We are delighted to present to the public the largest presentation to date of the work of British sculptor James Capper (b.1987). Comprising more than 200 works, this exhibition examines in particular and in depth his use of drawing in the process of making sculpture.

James Capper makes mobile sculpture to be used in action in a wide range of materials or terrains. His works are sculpture, and sculptural tools in - or ready for - action. Drawing is an important part of his practice and he makes large numbers of drawings of all kinds - from concept drawings (defining, developing and outlining new ideas and concepts for sculpture), technical drawings (line or filled-in drawings used to work out how the sculpture moves) to presentation drawings (spectacular, often large-scale, coloured drawings showing the sculpture in its complete form) and in-action drawings (complex drawings showing the sculpture in movement across space and time). In this way, for every realised sculpture there are a large number of drawings accumulated from conception to completion, as well as drawings made after the sculpture is finished; it is characteristic of James to draw his sculptures well beyond the fabrication period and even to return to specific sculptures through drawings years after they are made.

James Capper’s way of making mobile sculpture consists of three distinct but interrelated processes – drawing, making sculpture and the capacities and application of the sculpture in action understood and developed through testing, filming and subsequent demonstrations. His art adopts the techniques, materials and complex problem-solving processes of innovation and engineering to develop the possibilities of sculpture.

His sculptural language evolves along different modular chains termed ‘Divisions’.  Each sculpture produces questions that the next attempts to answer, so that over time each Division produces its own clear familial iconography and application in action.  The works vary in size, from handheld Power Tools in the Carving Division to larger scale works sitting in the Earth-marking or Material Handling Divisions, and Offshore Division works envisaged for use on the water or Aviation Division flying works.

Also, included in this exhibition are two large-scale outdoor works TELESTEP (2015) and TREAD TOE (2010), both from the artist’s Earth Marking Division, and a number of smaller scale works from his Carving Division including NIPPER (LONG REACH) (2012), a Hydraulic Power Tool from the family of sculpture defined by its distinct double “jaw”. The titles and forms of these sculptures are inspired by the living world of reptiles, insects and birds. However, considered in action their hydraulically controlled “teeth” - a term we now happily associate with James’ sculpture - demonstrate cutting and rapid fracturing capacities that seem entirely at the service of an industrial application.

To consider his vision in short: traditional frames of sculptural reference are radically revisited, and if real-time technological advances in heavy industry fall behind or advance ahead, James’ own arrangement of ergonomics, hydraulics and aesthetics, allows the works to exist autonomously.

Following his studies at Chelsea College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, James Capper’s work has been widely exhibited around the world in museums, not for profit institutions and galleries. Notable solo presentations of his work include RIPPER TEETH IN ACTION at Modern Art Oxford (2011), DIVISIONS at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2013), SIX STEP at Rio dell’Orso with Alma Zevi for the Venice Biennale (2015), PROTOTYPES at CGP London (2016), ATLAS A SPOLETO! / TELESTEP A SPOLETO!, Anna Mahler Association project for the Mahler & LeWitt Studios & Festival dei Due Mondi, Spoleto, Italy (2016), SCULPTURE & HYDRAULICS at The Edge Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts, University of Bath (2017). The youngest ever artist to be awarded the prestigious Jack Goldhill Prize for Sculpture from the Royal Academy of Arts, London, his work is the subject of critical debate and dialogue about positions in sculpture in the 21st Century and continues to challenge varied audiences everywhere it is shown. He lives and works in Bermondsey, South London and has exhibitions forthcoming this year in Oaxaca, Mexico and Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia.