The English-born, Germany-based Tony Cragg is one of the world’s leading sculptors; his large-scale works, the result of a lifelong interest with material and form; he is fascinated by the materials that can be found in nature, yet his work is preoccupied with representing nature itself.
Cragg’s abstract, sinuous sculptures are made by exploring unconventional shapes and materials. Whilst very different in their scale and design, Cragg’s works are drawn together in likeness by their twisting and rippling forms. Artnet has described his works as “embody[ing] a frozen moment of movement,” almost akin to a blurred motion. Cragg has shown that there are endless material possibilities in sculpture. “It’s infinite,” he says in a short documentary film created for Tateshots. “Really, the job is to find out where it becomes more meaningful.”
Certain topics that have enchanted him since childhood include geology, natural history, and the study of landscapes—and what has truly fascinated him about them is the materials that can be found within them. Cragg explains that they are “like a painter’s palette… This is a palette where I can move a material around, and find my own path through the material”. Cragg understands sculpture as “just pure fantasy, there’s no natural model for it”. This is exemplified in the reworking of familiar objects into new and unfamiliar forms, in order to produce new meanings simply for the sake of it. “Sculpture is an enormously dynamic, and dramatically developing discipline and it’s one of the only uses of material that’s not utilitarian,” he says in the film. “It’s literally just about new forms, ideas and emotional experiences. When you see how ugly everything is built—simple geometries, flat straight edges, boring right angles, in the repetitive and inferior world we’ve built, sculpture is the only one that actually builds something crazy and interesting.”