In the next instalment in our series looking at contemporary British artists and accompanying Yale books, we take a look at the life and work of visual artist and sculptor Tony Cragg, whose exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern art opens today.
Tony Cragg is one of today’s most celebrated and popular sculptors. He has brought an investigative, intuitive approach to sculpture, using an extraordinary range of materials. He came to prominence in the late 1970s for works composed of brightly coloured plastic objects, but since the mid-1980s has worked extensively in other materials such as bronze, glass, plaster, wood, fibreglass, and plastics. His work is best known for fusing art and science in a rich and arresting way.
About the Artist
Cragg was born in Liverpool in 1949. He began his career as a laboratory assistant, helping to test, manipulate and develop different types of rubber. At the time he was also studying art, and began to use drawing to understand the experiments in the laboratory. Gradually, these drawings came to have more significance for him than the experiments themselves. Cragg’s background in science partly informed his imaginative approach to making sculpture.
Many of Cragg’s early works are made from found materials, discarded construction materials, and disposed household materials. This gave him a large range of mainly man-made materials and facilitated the thematic concerns that became characteristic of his work up to the present. During the 1970s he made sculptures using simple techniques such as stacking, splitting, and crushing. In 1978 he collected discarded plastic fragments and arranged them into colour categories. One of these works, Britain Seen From the North (1981), features the shape of the island of Great Britain on the wall, oriented so that north is to the left. To the left of the island is the figure of a man, apparently Cragg himself, looking at the country from the position of an outsider. The whole piece is made from broken pieces of found rubbish and is often interpreted as commenting on the economic difficulties Britain was going through at that time, which had a particular effect on the north. In 1988 he won the Turner Prize.
About the Book and Exhibition
Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Drawings by Patrick Elliott celebrates the work of one of the world’s most successful and respected artists, concentrating on works made in the last ten years. It includes also examples of earlier work, and has been produced in close consultation with Cragg.
The book accompanies an exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art (30th July to 6th November 2011) which opens today. This exhibition is Tony Cragg’s first museum show in Britain for more than a decade, and features around fifty major sculptures, some of which are on a huge scale and are sited in the Gallery’s grounds. Focusing mainly on Cragg’s work from the past fifteen years, this exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to see new work by one of the world’s greatest living sculptors.
Watch a video of Tony Cragg preparing for his show in Duisburg in February, 2011
Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Drawings is available now from Yale University Press