Continuity and discontinuity – Angus Taylor at Circa on Jellicoe

Angus Taylor has in recent years become synonymous with large scale rock and metal sculptures of the human form and centaurs. For his exhibition New Work at Circa on Jellicoe from 9 February – 24 March 2010 he uses a variety of materials and textures, rigid and pliable, with emphasis on the human head.

Angus is known to sculpt ‘past completion’ so instead of casting as the sculpture is moulded and complete, he waits for a work to deteriorate, to corrode and crumble before he captures and casts it. The sheer scale of his work requires him to constantly break down and rebuild his work. He refers to the permanence of some materials, but that even the strongest of materials will deteriorate in one way or another. Some materials will disintegrate and dissipate, being as fleeting as human life.

Angus Taylor, BELATED WAKE I, II, III, 2010, thatch, twine, steel wire, steel frame, insect and fire-proof chemical treatment (source Everard Read Gallery)

Angus Taylor, BELATED WAKE I, II, III, 2010, thatch, twine, steel wire, steel frame, insect and fire-proof chemical treatment (source Everard Read Gallery)

As the title of the monumental human heads, Belated Wake I, II and III (2010), would suggest, the three heads refer to what remains of man after death. The heads thatched and sculpted out of straw, a material which will clearly deteriorate denotes the transitory nature of things, of life and death and the cycle of continuity and discontinuity.

Angus Taylor, Anticipate, Bloat and Deflate, 2010, cast bronze, rammed earth plinths (source Everard Read Gallery)

Anticipate (2010), Bloat (2010) and Deflate (2010) is a triptych of three heads that Taylor says metaphorically connotes and denotes inflation of identities and material things, things that are actually trivial and unimportant. This series consists of three almost life-size busts, party life cast and partly modelled. These bronze self-portraits are presented on rammed earth plinths. The first head figures a blown up mouth, the second is a bloated version of the first, distorted in shape and size. The distortion occurred by means of manipulating sculptural processes. The third is an imploded or deflated version of the first. Taylor also refers to this series as Disproportions of Inflation or Thrice Busted by Myself.

The artist’s intention is to comment on the contemporary art milieu which can bring about distorted values, for example, with the advent of high profile contemporary artists being bestowed celebrity and star status. A disproportionate view of one’s own worth may become inescapable even for the reluctant artist who is inevitability swallowed up into the machinations of the art market.

The three heads, inflated and deflated, resonated on a more political level with some of the gallery goers. The distorted heads were read to comment on avaricious high profile and controversial South African politicians. The first head with the swollen mouth may well refer to some verbose South African politicians. The second, Bloat, bears an uncanny resemblance to a topical, very outspoken and voracious youth leader, inflated to bursting with self importance and power. The third, Deflate, symbolises the fall from grace, sure to follow.

Taylor explains that the bronze casts are placed on a contrastingly ‘worthless’ and disregarded plinth of rammed earth, compressed red earth mixed with organic materials such as grass. Rammed earth is the most common building material in Africa. ‘I am African in a peculiar sort of way, on that piece of earth’, he says.


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