I woke up to the sound of a drum”: new sculpture and drawings.

Steven Gontarski I woke up to the sound of a drum

9 September – 6 November 2010

“On the last new moon I drummed for a while in the dark. Later that night when I was in a deep sleep I suddenly woke up because I heard the sound of a drum coming from the room where I had held my ritual a few hours earlier. I wasn’t sure if I was awake or dreaming”. – Steven Gontarski, August 2010

Divided into two parts, Steven Gontarski’s exhibition of new sculptures and drawings creates a dialogue not only between the objects themselves but also across time and space, life and dreams. The first section of the exhibition comprises a series of drawings depicting a number of birds, astral nebulae and a small golden sculpture, linked together by a swooping bough. Recalling Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Space, Gontarski’s sculpture, Beltane Object, was inspired by the form of a bird in flight. However rather than describing the appearance of a particular bird, the work communicates the notion of flight itself and presents the bird as a mediator between earth and the heavens. Covered in gold leaf, the play of light as it bounces off the highly reflective metallic surface is reminiscent of the ways in which birds dart, dip and glide.

The movement of light as it reflects and refracts is a recurring theme in this exhibition. Inspired by the ways in which the sun and moon illuminate, albeit in different ways, Gontarski has created a series of warm golden, and cool translucent, sculptures that appear as though they are themselves light sources. The glow of the patterned golden surfaces of Beltane Sun Object is rich and pregnant with energy, while the Lunar Ob sculptures are calmer, with cool crisp auras. Silver outlines and glitter details on the drawings, also catch the light in focused glints.

In 2009 Steven Gontarski made a tour of prehistoric sites in the west of England, following in the footsteps of the English modernists. In his efforts to express energy in sculptural form, his new body of work is indebted to the ancient monuments and landscapes that he visited. It was in 1936 that Barbara Hepworth made a comparison between abstraction and the Neolithic menhirs of Stonehenge; More than 70 years later, Gontarski too had a revelatory experience when visiting Silbury Hill and the stone circles at Avebury. The circles at Avebury have been, and continue to be, used to celebrate lunar and solar progressions through the year, and Gontarski’s sculptures take their titles from the word “Beltane”, the Gaelic name for the first of May: the midpoint in the Sun’s progression between the spring equinox and summer solstice. The use of light in Gontarski’s work echoes the transitional movements of the celestial orbs as they pass over the prehistoric stones, while his biomorphic sculptural shapes also recall the formations of life-creating nebulae.

Believing that sculpture has an inner vitality and force that comes from the combination of material, form and concept, Barbara Hepworth and her contemporaries saw in the Neolithic sites and standing stones of Stonehenge prehistoric precedents for their artistic aspirations. Hepworth went on to suggest that the preoccupation with the abstract was a search for the absolute, the universal experience of life. She proposed that in seeking solutions to the problems of shape, balance, form and material, humanity might also find solutions to “human difficulties”. Through his use of light, surface, volume and line Gontarski seeks an understanding of the earth beneath our feet. His works suggest that the modernist call for harmonious relationships with the earth was a precursor of today’s environmental concerns. Whilst visiting West Kennet Long Barrow, a Neolithic tomb, Gontarski was witness to a new moon drumming ritual and ever since has become attuned to the earth as it orbits, and is orbited by, the sun and moon. Gontarski now greets every full and new moon with a drum ritual of his own. These rituals are his attempt to access a world somewhere between the known and unknown – between waking and dreaming.

Duration 08 September 2010 - 06 November 2010
Times Mon-Fri 10-5:30; Sat 11-4
Cost Free
Venue Gimpel Fils
Address 30 Davies St London W1K 4NB, ,
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