Lumpy Figure, 2009, bronze, 255 x 99 x 116 cm
The British contemporary sculptor Thomas Houseago makes masks and monumental, anthropomorphic sculptures in plaster, hemp, iron, wood and bronze. They express at the same time, strength and fragility by the interplay of two and three-dimensional elements. These are imperfect beings, in weird poses, which show also the marks of the creative process.
Houseago is, among other things, inspired by music of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, by all kinds of folk culture, children's books, comic strips, record sleeves and science fiction. The artist himself says to be influenced by the masks of Picasso (1881-1973) and Darth Vader, a fictional character from the Star Wars films, a cruel figure, recognizable by his dark suit, deep voice and huge size. This influence can also be found in his work Lumpy Figure (2009).
This strange, hunchbacked creature resembles a golem, a human figure from a Jewish legend, made of clay and brought to life by a Rabbi. The Hebrew word 'gelem' means raw material. As a robot, the golem executes tasks that its maker gave him to serve the people until the creature became furious and rebellious.
The imperfection of the sculpture, where parts are missing, humanizes the monstrous being. It repels and attracts at the same time. Lumpy Figure, deformed by bumps, is just a primitive but also futuristic creature from another planet. Slightly bent, heavily relying on his right foot and the left arm bent over his head, he makes a forward movement. Powerful fingerprints have kneaded the heavy clay mass at the front before it was cast in bronze. The colossal energy, thus released, contrasts with the back of the sculpture where a tin piece of iron is sticking out of the construction. In the combination of two and three dimensions the process of creation is exposed. That way Thomas Houseago creates in his works an interface between abstraction and figuration.
About his transparent way of working the artist says: "I am fascinated by the actions that an artist takes to make something and I want them to be an important part of how you see and read the piece. I also like the idea of making the creative act accessible". With the partially realized form of the sculpture Houseago is consciously connecting at the tradition of sculptors as Michelangelo (1475-1584), Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Constantin Brâncuși (1876-1957) and Henry Moore (1898-1986).
By letting the work unfinished the artist draws attention to the making process and his daily struggle to realize his artistic ambition. Lumpy Figure is an imperfect alien, a little frightening, partly human and partly animal. The hybrid figure stands in a world where the familiar and the strange are living together.
Thomas Houseago is born in Leeds, United Kingdom, in 1972. He studied art at London's Central Saint Martins College. He moved to Amsterdam to study at de Ateliers, an independent art school where young visual artists are working in their own workshops, supervised by renowned artists and art critics. In 2004, he moved to Los Angeles where he now lives and works. He exhibited, among others in New York, Los Angeles, London, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and The Netherlands.
Text: Myriam Geurts, August 2016