Tony Cragg is an artist who thinks through materials. As he explains, “Materials play a very important role in our daily lives. Without materials, we wouldn’t be here. Materials are never wrong. If there is something wrong, it’s in my mind “1.
Before starting his artistic career, Cragg worked as a technician in a rubber laboratory between 1966 and 1968. In 1977, he moved to the German city of Wuppertal, where he has lived ever since. There, he began to work on a series of pieces made from plastic objects he collected from the banks of the Rhine, which he then used to compose recognisable forms such as human figures and the island of Great Britain. These were followed by more sculptural works composed of different layers and tiers of industrial objects which he compressed into a kind of pastiche. These works were undoubtedly influenced by his passion for geology. As he says, “I was thinking about geology. The distribution of materials. Particles such as molecules, the cells of a body, the stars in the sky. At a certain point, the particles reach such a density that they become layers. Stratification has a sense of time and is about growth “.
This contrast between the industrial and nature, which is so evident in Wuppertal, can be seen as a metaphor for Cragg’s own work. He adapts forms that can be found in nature (the artist’s passion for geology has even led him to collect fossils) but, at the same time, he shapes these forms through industrial materials as varied as bronze, stainless steel, fibreglass, wood and glass.
Cragg’s work begins with the drawing. Two dimensions can do everything, there are no limits in drawing, but it is when he tries to take these figures to three dimensions that the limitations appear, and this is where the materials play a substantial role. The artist explains this creative process as follows: “I have to have, more or less, an idea about where I want to go, but it is fantastic when you arrive at a destination that you were not able to anticipate. This is true of some of my best pieces. And then you say, wow, this is a completely new experience for me. That’s the most exciting part of my work “.
His work won him the Turner Prize in 1988 and he represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale the same year. Throughout his career he has received numerous awards including Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in France, Royal Academician of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Order of the British Empire and the Order of Merit from the Republic of Germany.
Points of View is another of his iconic pieces of which he has made several variations. The title perfectly sums up one of the main characteristics of Tony Cragg’s sculptures, as they have to be seen from many different points of view. It is necessary to circle them for a full 360 degrees to have a complete view of his work. One of his pieces formed part of the exhibition that the Hortensia Herrero Foundation organised at the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia and which Hortensia Herrero later donated to the city of Valencia and which is now on the Monteolivete bridge. Runner is another one of those iconic works that Tony Cragg comes back to over and over again. A stainless-steel version, one and a half metres high, was the first work by Cragg to become part of Hortensia Herrero’s collection. In Cragg’s own words, “the origin of Runner comes from the elliptical columns becoming more dynamic. One part is vertical and the other is like a ziggurat, but put together they offset each other and then you get the feeling that this is what our lives are like. It reflects a form of fear, of restlessness. I am an anxious and restless person. It’s my nature. I feel in my head that things come and go, and I like that and I don’t like it, and I want to do this and I don’t want to do it. There are a lot of things going around in my head “. Spring is another work from the Hortensia Herrero collection and in it we can glimpse a small spring made of wood, another of the materials through which Cragg expresses his thoughts.