Published on February 17, 2014 | by Caroline Clastres


The world according to Deacon

Richard Deacon is an award-winning British sculptor, famous for his abstract artwork. ALN’s Caroline Clastres visited Tate Britain, where 40 years of Deacon’s work is currently being shown.


At first glance, they are just organic materials shaped and built in such a way that they look melted into each other. Geometrical forms soon disappear to let the roundness of it all inevitably catch your eye.

As you continue admiring, the raw and untreated aspects combine fluidly; you would be tempted to think it is about some sort of duality between nature and industrialism. But it might as well be about how incredibly well the components work together.

And so the story of Deacon’s ascent happens before our eyes as we progress through the six rooms of the Linbury Galleries situated on the lower ground floor of the Tate Britain.

The exhibition seems set as tribute to the work of Richard Deacon, chronologically showcasing 40 years of varying-sized sculptures alongside a series of drawings.

Clarrie Wallis, curator of the exhibition, has known and followed Richard Deacon for a long period. She reveals that representation is just as important to the sculptor as the actual work accumulated over the years, fast tracking the notion of ‘performance’ at the centre of the exhibition.


Deacon has consistently described himself as a ‘fabricator,’ putting emphasis on the construction of materials and the act of ‘putting in shape.’

“Deacon has been busy, not only working but especially thinking about how to show his work,” she says.

Winner of the 1987 Turner prize, it has been a long time since this alumnus of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design achieved international recognition. Being permanently sited in locations around the world ranging from Yonge Square Plaza, Toronto, to Redheugh Bridge, Gateshead, Deacon has consistently described himself as a ‘fabricator,’ putting emphasis on the construction of materials and the act of ‘putting in shape’.

Whilst CSM is commonly associated with recognised, original sculptors, Deacon established himself and emerged with a whole group of artists who went on to revolutionise abstract sculpture in Britain; notably with the support of tutors such as Anthony Caro and Peter Kardia.

It is not hard to acknowledge Deacon’s unconditional love for different elements. From wood to steel, ceramic and terracotta or marble and leather, his materials are twisted, steamed, frozen and cut as if pushed to their limits.

Wallis reveals Deacon’s genuine interest for the notion of complexity – playing with the viewer’s sense of interior and exterior, Deacon truly explores depth and surface.


“The relationship between language and object is crucial in Deacon’s work.” Clarrie Wallis

Having this incredible faculty to renew himself and innovate, the progress within Deacon’s work is more than obvious throughout the exhibit.

Dissatisfied with the constructed, straight-lined appearance of his previous work, Deacon moved from a structured style to an organic approach, involving open structures where form is defined not by its shape but rather by its boundary and edge.

His continuously changing methods are a result of developments in sculptural techniques but also from inspiration found through other forms of art; in the late 1970s, Deacon began a series of drawings based on the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus, which proved to be of great importance to his subsequent practice.

In a series called Art for Other People, which started in 1982, Deacon displays creations made of everyday materials accessible to the general public.

This turning point in Deacon’s perceptions led him to develop the idea of language and communication through the interaction of objects.

“The relationship between language and object is crucial in Deacon’s work, since the link between speech and sculpting gives structure and meaning to our world, and is therefore communalising,” says Wallis. “His conceptual interests make him unique.”


Deacon’s work will be showing the Tate Britain until April 27 2014. Tickets cost £11.00 for adults, £9.50 for concessions.

Richard Deacon will be giving a talk about his work at Tate Britain on Wednesday, March 12 2014, 6:30 – 8:30pm. Tickets are £12.

For more information click here.


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