Proposition Camden, 100A Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8EH
5 - 15 October 2023
Hours of opening:
Special events include:
Private View: Wednesday 4 October 6.00 - 8:30pm
'In Conversation', exhibition curator Alice Black talks to Gary March: Friday 6 October 7 - 8.30 (doors open 6.30)
Relief, Portland stone
In this exhibition, sculptor and painter Gary March works with both raw and reclaimed materials to create anthropomorphic artworks. March’s practice combines wood and stone carving with found objects from urban and industrial environments. These playful, postmodern sculptures evoke a lineage of European modernists (including Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brâncuși) who in turn were profoundly inspired by West and Central African sculpture on display in Paris at the beginning of the twentieth-century. Using any stone that is available and calling him to work with, March’s sculptures contain rich associations. They are imbued with histories of industrial labour, mineral extraction and the global circulation of goods. They also nod to how international movement of materials through trade bears witness to a colonial past.
March assembles artworks by salvaging waste and revealing these unwanted materials’ innate vitality and aesthetic power. He brings to life discarded materials, deemed “imperfect” or “disposable” by industry standards, by turning them into soulful works of art. March’s actions make us reassess our own behaviour and values as contemporary consumers. Why do we throw so much away? What makes an object useful or beautiful? March's practice challenges us to abandon Western philosophical concepts of valuing form over material, which is characterised as inert and valueless. His work attunes us to the rhythms, colours, energies and legacies of the objects he carves, paints and combines. “There is no such thing as rubbish,” March explains. “Figuring out a way of repurposing materials is at the heart of my practice because it’s crucial to our ability to survive and flourish on earth.”
Reborn marks March’s own artistic flourishing, following a slow, arduous recovery from a serious car accident in 2008. The accident severely hindered March’s ability to work for a period of six years until 2012, after which he began working with found materials. “It was a huge turning point for me,” March says, “I had to change my way of working because I couldn’t lift stone, much less chainsaw trees or move timber about.” Having been invited to show in New York in 2010 as the UK representative for the European Design Group, March created a display mechanism from carpet storage tubes and was struck by the potential of unwanted materials: “I don’t look for anything, instead we find each other.”
When creating new assemblages in the studio, March focuses on trying out different combinations of objects, carefully assessing how well they “flow together”. March uniquely combines modernist European stone carving skills and Shona sculptural techniques with urban scavenging. His formal training in stonework at City & Guilds of London Art School has been greatly enriched by exploring African sculptural traditions which involve finding spirit within the stone, particularly Shona stonework from Zimbabwe and bronze cast sculpture from the Benin Empire.
Inspired by environmentalism, his Afro-Caribbean heritage and childhood in Birmingham once known as ‘the city of a thousand trades’, March’s sculptures evolved as investigation into his own DNA and the origins and journeys of the materials he works with. “When I use a particular material, we go on a journey: it will reveal itself to me, and I will reveal myself to the material.” The notion of a ‘journey’ implies a wish to evolve, to move towards greater self-knowledge and harmony with the world. March’s intimacy with his material is inherently humanist and political: no person, object or action is expendable. This creative outlook, grounded in sustainability and a belief in regeneration and rebirth, helps March reveal the inner life of the discarded objects he uses. His sculptures reveal an inherent, inner beauty of the materials on display, and imbues them with a newly discovered worth.
Those Who Came Before
Photo by Crispian Blaize Photography