Exploring philosophy, physics, rationality, philosophy, and the intersection of art and science, Conrad Shawcross RA is known for his abstract, large-scale and technologically complex sculptures made from industrial materials.Read More
Given their geometric forms and technological construction, Conrad Shawcross' sculpture creations are often compared to scientific models and machines. His process has much in common with industrial production; from the initial stages of sketching ideas, he works with a team of engineers to create prototypes before fabricating works in his East London studio.
Shawcross was born in 1977 in London, where he currently lives and works. The son of two writers and stepson of a painter, Shawcross attributes his interdisciplinary approach in part due to his childhood; growing up around creative activity, he soon discovered his own innate passion for making and taking things apart.
Shawcross studied at Chelsea School of Art and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art before completing an MFA from Slade School of Art in London. His exposure to literature, history and the science during his studies was influential in shaping his art practice; frequently poetic and playful, his works explore the nature of reality and the limits of perception.
Throughout his career, Shawcross has experimented with geometry and topology through his modular, mechanical installations. Shawcross' works often pay tribute to pioneering scientists and thinkers of the past. One such work is the complex oak-and-string mechanical sculpture Paradigm (Ode to the Difference Engine) (2006): a nod to the English mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage, who designed a ground-breaking calculating machine in the 1820s. Similarly, the 2007 work Space Trumpet was inspired by the history of early acoustic mapping; and the steel sculpture series 'Slow Arc Inside a Cube' (2007–ongoing) was inspired by the discovery of the structure of pig insulin.
Shawcross is also known for his public and architectural installations. For the major commission Timepiece (2013), Shawcross transformed the main space of London's Roundhouse building into an eight-metre mechanised timekeeping device, which was made of over 700 parts and aimed to acquaint visitors with the primeval experience of measuring time.
In 2015, Shawcross was commissioned to create a series of permanent sculptures for Dulwich Park. Seeking to honour cast-iron works by Barbara Hepworth that were stolen from the site in 2011, Shawcross made a series of knot-like, cast-iron sculptures entitled 'Three Perpetual Chords'. The works, which the artist referred to as 'visual descriptions of musical chords', drew from his ongoing study of harmonic ratios in musical frequencies.
Other public commissions include the tall, tree-like metal sculptures entitled The Dappled Light of Sun (2015), installed in the Annenberg Courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts; Paradigm (2016), a 14-metre-tall geometric sculpture made of weathering steel outside London's Francis Crick Institute; The Optic Cloak (2016) at an energy centre in the Greenwich Peninsula; The Interpretation of Movement (a 9:8 in blue) (2017) at London's St Pancras International station; Exploded Paradigm (Philadelphia) (2018) for the lobby of the Comcast Technology Centre in Philadelphia; and Bicameral (2019) at London's Chelsea Barracks development.
For his 2021 exhibition The Measures of Change at Victoria Miro Gallery in Venice (2021), Shawcross featured delicate and complex geometric bronze forms from his 'Fracture' series (2018–ongoing) and a collection of works from his series 'Perimeter Studies' (2005–ongoing), which explore the geometric properties of the five platonic solids. He also showed a series of prints entitled 'Studies for The Patterns of Absence', inspired by the Venice canals near which the exhibition took place.
Shawcross' works have been featured in group and solo exhibitions in major institutions around the world. Some such venues include: Science Museum, London (2019); Barbican Centre, London(2017); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2016–17); ArtScience Museum, Singapore (2017); Palazzo Fortuny, Venice (2015); Hayward Gallery, London (2013); Auckland Art Gallery (2014–15); Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2015); and Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE (2015).
Shawcross is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, and his works are part of many permanent collections, including Amorepacific Museum of Art, Seoul; British Council, UK; Museum of New South Wales, Sydney; MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart; The Saatchi Gallery, London; Tate, UK; Vervoordt Collection, Antwerp; and Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Chongqing, China.
He has recently had solo presentations at ARTMIA Foundation, Beijing (2014); the Roundhouse, London (2013); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013); MUDAM, Luxembourg (2012); Science Museum, London (2011 - 2012); Turner Contemporary, Margate (2011); and Oxford Science Park (2010). His work has also been exhibited internationally at institutions and events including the Royal Academy, London (2014); Mofo festival, Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (2014); the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); Grand Palais, Paris (2013); Hayward Gallery, London (2013); KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2012); National Gallery, London (2012); Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel (2012); Centre d'Art Bastille, Grenoble (2012); Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (2011); Park De Oude Warande, Tilburg (2011); Palazzo Fortuny, Venice (2011); Gervasuti Foundation, Venice (2011); CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid (2011); Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (2011); and Kunsthal in Amersfoort (2010).
Leila Sajjadi | Ocula | 2021