Jeff Lowe: Objects in Sculpture, art review: ‘Like drawings in space’

The Shape Inside No 1, by Jeff Lowe

The Shape Inside No 1, by Jeff Lowe - Credit: Archant

“Abstract sculpture, generally, is no longer newsworthy,” says Highgate artist and writer James Faure Walker in the catalogue essay for Jeff Lowe: Object Lessons at Pangolin London.

But it certainly was in 1974, when Faure Walker began to follow Lowe’s progress after he had an exhibition while still at St Martin’s School of Art. At that time the status of sculpture was fiercely debated.

Did it need to be physical? Is “modernist” sculpture still feasible? Lowe’s answer to both, then and now, must be a resounding yes. He is part of the legacy of constructed steel sculpture whose best known practitioner in America was David Smith and in Britain Sir Anthony Caro. But whilst Lowe admires Caro, who taught him at St Martin’s, the block-like nature of much of his work is perhaps closer to other teachers there - William Tucker and Philip King.

Distinctively Lowe’s own, in sculptures old and new, is what Faure Walker describes as “their immaculate machine finish and Zen elegance”. They have the look of spontaneous invention, the fluency of drawing in space, even when the material is rigid aluminium. He has adapted a way of bending aluminium rods, observed watching builders reinforcing concrete in Portugal.

Lowe draws continually and not only on paper. Drawn Out comprises thirty-six cast iron panels arranged in three rows, each with string outlines, like casual drawings, in relief.

This exhibition, spanning four decades of a prolific career, shows what can be achieved with playful experiment with industrial materials.

“I want the sculpture to inform me and surprise me, not to be logical,” says Lowe. “I don’t want to be able to predict what will happen.”

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