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Dulwich Picture Gallery is now showing ‘Counterpoint’, a new display of sculptures by the British artist Conrad Shawcross. Works include a dynamic light piece and a series of preparatory studies which will transform the Gallery’s Permanent Collection.The display provides context to the artist’s new sculptures in nearby Dulwich Park, Three Perpetual Chords.
Shawcross’ practice focuses on mechanical sculptures inspired by his fascination with harmonics and the visual description of musical chords. His lightwork, Counterpoint (2006), which gives its name to the display, is situated in the Gallery’s mausoleum. Visitors will see spinning lights draw four parallel loops creating a dizzying visual representation of a Major Third chord.
The patterns of light thrown by this movement were captured photographically by Shawcross using the time-lapse technique and the resulting knot-like patterns, a fleeting twisting path of light, provided the form for the new sculptures in Dulwich Park. Three Perceptual Chords Studies (2015) on display in the Gallery’s enfilade and cloister area will give visitors the opportunity to see small-scale studies of these three knot-like forms; representations of three chords within the Western harmonic scale: The Octave, The Fifth and The Fourth.
Three Perpetual Chords,which will be unveiled to the public on 18 April, takes the form of a series of cast iron sculptures at the Northern end of Dulwich Park. Appearing to rest on the grass, the industrial material is juxtaposed with the historic arcadian environment. The three knot-like forms are cast in spheroidal cast iron, which in time reacts to the atmosphere forming colours of deep red, blue, black and brown, and areas of polished silver where they are frequently touched.
Three Perpetual Chordswas commissioned by Southwark Council in partnership with the Contemporary Art Society to replace the Two Forms Divided Circle sculpture by Barbara Hepworth, which was stolen from the park in 2011.
Conrad Shawcross was born in 1977 in London, where he currently resides and works. Imbued with an appearance of scientific rationality, his sculptures explore subjects that lie on the borders of geometry and philosophy, physics and metaphysics.Different technologies and natural forces inspire his forms, but his mysterious machines and structures remain enigmatic, filled with paradox and wonder. Some have an absurdist melancholy feel, while others tend to the sublime.
Shawcross has also experimented with ideal geometries and topologies; these constructions are conceived as systems, sometimes modular, sometimes mechanical, which could be theoretically extended infinitely into space. In these and other sculptures, Shawcross pays tribute to some of the great pioneers and analysts, and considers specific moments or figures from the past. Paradigm (Ode to the Difference Engine), 2006 references the life of Charles Babbage; Space Trumpet, 2007 is inspired by the history of early acoustic mapping; while Slow Arc Inside a Cube, 2008 takes its inspiration from the scientist Dorothy Hodgkin’s discovery of the structure of pig insulin.
More recently, Shawcross has developed the scale of his practice, taking on architectural spaces with work that combines epic scope and poetic grace. Timepiece was a major new commission for the Roundhouse in 2013 in which Shawcross transformed the iconic main space of this historic London building into a vast timekeeping device.
Shawcross is the youngest living member of the Royal Academy of Arts.
Dulwich Picture Gallery
7 Gallery Road