Richard Deacon at Tate Britain

I haven’t made anything recently – too much work building websites and rolling out Makerhood. Besides, in the weather we’ve had it’s not really practical to hang dripping scarves and bubble wrap around the house.

Yesterday I escaped my cabin fever and went to the Richard Deacon exhibition at Tate Britain. As soon as I saw the publicity posters showing the sinuous loops of After, constructed from hoops and lengths of bent wood, I knew I had to see it. And I wasn’t disappointed.

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Deacon describes himself as a fabricator (as opposed to a carver or modeller), and he’s interested in the physicality of materials. In this respect he reminds me of Thomas Heatherwick, exploring and pushing the boundaries of materials to create new and unexpected forms. On the Tate website, the artist is quoted as saying: ‘The way that I work, seems to be to start, if not from nothing, from minimal conditions. They’re not amorphous, pure mass like lumps of clay, neither do they have the phenomenal strength of rock or a piece of nature. They have a certain independence. Making them into shapes is an act of will on my part.’

Many of the pieces are made of thin strips of wood laminated together and steam bent into organic curves. More technically mindblowing is Out of Order, where wooden planks swoop exhilaratingly into rollercoaster coils, and solid three-inch wooden posts twist like a DNA helix. That must have taken quite a lot of will! (There’s an interview on the Tate website that explains how it was done.)

Photo: v1ctory_1s_m1ne under Creative Commons, Flickr
Photo: v1ctory_1s_m1ne under Creative Commons, Flickr

There’s also a very interesting short video on the Tate website showing Deacon in his studio (in Herne Hill, so he’s a Lambeth local!) with his collection of objects that have inspired him, from Marge Simpson’s hair to a bit of chain he found on the street.

Another of his pieces in the exhibition, Waiting for the Rain made from terracotta, reminded me of a flint hand axe.

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It inspired me to go home and make a felt vessel!

Richard Deacon is on at Tate Britain until 27 April.

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