Thomas Houseago: Where the Wild Things are at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

By Ben Miller | 28 August 2012
An image of two monumental sculptures of figurative forms placed on a huge plinth
Thomas Houseago, Hands & Feet III (2011)© Courtesy Thomas Houseago / Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen
Exhibition: Thomas Houseago: Where the Wild Things are, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, until January 27 2013

If there is nothing unusual in a contemporary sculptor being enamoured with titans of the genre, Thomas Houseago absorbs his influences and hits back with eye-catching originality.

A photo of an outdoor sculpture of a dark mask on a brown plinth on grassland
Mask/Helmet II (2010)© Courtesy Thomas Houseago, Michael Werner Gallery, New York / L&M Arts, Los Angeles. Photo: Alex Delfanne, courtesy Hauser & Wirth
One of his bronzes, the typically monumental Hermaphrodite, has been next to a Henry Moore bronze, Draped Reclining woman, in the Sculpture Garden at the Sainsbury Centre since February.

That work has been the catalyst for his more recent creations, reflected in this group of bronze and plaster works – the first in the Centre’s ongoing series of contemporary shows to be dedicated to sculpture.

Houseago excels at figurative moulds, crafting primal forms which are towering but fragile, giving a cartoonish spin on modernism and cubism.

They use plaster, clay, wood, rebar and hessian, are sometimes cast in aluminium, and tend to look unfinished.

“As a sculptor, I am trying to put thought and energy into inert materials and give it truth and form,” says the artist, whose works have taken names including When Earth F***s with Space, or taken inspiration from Darth Vader.

“I believe there is nothing more profound than achieving that."

A photo of a tall stone figurative sculpture showing what looks like a female figure on grass
Thomas Houseago, Rattlesnake Figure (2011)© Courtesy Thomas Houseago / L&M Arts, Los Angeles. Photo: courtesy Hauser & Wirth
Head on a two Tiered Base is on display for the first time, and there are three sculptures in the Living Area Gallery, positioned alongside the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection in a comparative study of figurative ideas.

“He has discussed the influence on his work of modern sculptors such as Picasso, Epstein, Moore, Giacometti, Paolozzi and Brancusi,” says Calvin Winner, the curator of the show.

“But he has also expressed his fascination with the art of Western Africa, for example in Fang sculptures from Gabon.

“The placing of his sculptures in and around the collection makes for fascinating juxtapositions in space and time, giving a new perspective on the work and on the collection itself.”

  • Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-8pm. Admission free.

More pictures:

A photo of a dark grey figurative sculpture form on grass underneath an ancient tree
Lying Figure (Mother Father) (2011)© Courtesy Thomas Houseago, Michael Werner Gallery, New York / L&M Arts, Los Angeles. Photo: Alex Delfanne, courtesy Hauser & Wirth
A photo of a large light grey stone figurative sculpture of two curved shapes on grass
Moon Mask (Two Plane) (2010)© Courtesy Thomas Houseago, Michael Werner Gallery, New York / L&M Arts, Los Angeles. Photo: Alex Delfanne, courtesy Hauser & Wirth
A photo of a large tall dark grey sculpture of a warrior-style figure in an outdoor setting
Lumpy Figure (2009)© Courtesy Thomas Houseago, Michael Werner Gallery, New York / L&M Arts, Los Angeles. Photo: Alex Delfanne, courtesy Hauser & Wirth
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