Andy Caple Sculpture in Rust

When I hold a piece of rusty iron, I am taken back into the lives of others, lives that were hard and unforgiving, but full of practical skill. I see the past and reach for a future. I need to maintain a humility in the face of the craft of the original maker and try to produce something which captures and enhances its uncompromising grace, and its ancient voice. This is a journey through history, through the hands of the first maker, through the imagination, and into the contemporary world.

They are no more than pieces of iron, large and small, round and square, thin and thick, lifted from the grass and mud of the fells and woods of the Lake District, abandoned and long past the task for which they were created. The beauty of iron is transient. It will continue to change as it reduces towards its component materials. I want to stop the process of decay and give this old iron a new stature and beauty, from the practical and utilitarian to the aesthetic. I bring it into the dry. I scrub it and degrease it, leaving it again to dry. I am left with a relatively stable piece of rusted iron, bearing the vestiges of its original purpose.

There is a pause in this process; a period of waiting. I live with it until it shouts at me. I have looked at it, moved it, positioned it, walked around it, until the time comes when it is ready, and so am I; ready to capture and re-present it. I use lacquer to stabilise further, and to enhance colour, shade and texture. Epoxy resin helps to stabilise and hold fragile pieces into place. The textured surfaces of rusted iron are set against areas of smoothed and finely polished metal. I hear my father’s voice saying ‘Stop, and look. Don’t overwork it’.

My tools are important to me. I maintain them - sometimes I make them - and keep them sharp and fit for purpose.

The finishing and presenting is vital, especially the angle of visual alignment. Engineered rods act to lift and support, set into a base of stone or precisely cut and polished wood, sanded and re-sanded to a silky lustre.

Am I a sculptor? I don’t know. Am I an artist? I struggle to know what I am. I am a maker working with made and abandoned things. I know that I have some skill and judgement, and that I invest my work with a high degree of emotional awareness that this old, fragmenting piece of red rust had one life and will now find another. I believe that what I make is a felt response to the piece that I found; and I believe that the things I make are real and alive, unique, with a personality of their own. I am proud to send them out into the world with a new dignity.

Andy Caple


Figment Photography

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