Magazine article Sculpture

Fusion: A Conversation with Rachel Kneebone

Magazine article Sculpture

Fusion: A Conversation with Rachel Kneebone

Article excerpt

British sculptor Rachel Kneebone uses porcelain to create deeply psychological and sensual tableaux of contorted bodies and limbs. I first came across her work at the Brooklyn Museum, where it was paired with the sculpture of Auguste Rodin in the exhibition "Regarding Rodin" (2012). The comparison is apt: Kneebone, too, is inspired by themes of generation, renewal, and the cycles of life. She is a wildly inventive artist who works at an exceptional level of rigor and discipline. Her sculptures appear to be in constant flux; their oscillation between connection and disconnection includes a middle ground where the imagery fuses. This creates a circular rather than a linear sense of time; the viewer's glance returns to approximately the same conceptual location, but with the sense of place altered by subtle changes.

Kneebone's work bears all the hallmarks of porcelain: it is white, cool, reflective, and inflected by cracks. Solid form alternates with a miasma of interlocking figures sculpted in extremely high relief. These hybrid bodies have human legs, but, from the waist up, they take on one of two forms representing each sex -female figures culminate in vulvas, male figures in phallic genitalia. They emerge directly from their substrate, which conceals where they begin and end. Wrapping the surface of a tower, falling into an abyss, or piling up into a mountain composed of limbs, these bodies give the overall impression of frantic, packed growth and high-velocity reproduction.

Kathleen Whitney: It could be said that your work resembles a three-dimensional rendering of stream of consciousness. The details are so numerous and complex that it's difficult to separate the parts from the whole.

Rachel Kneebone: Fragmentation is inherent in abstraction, as is the communication of its counterpart -the whole -even though it's not realized through the actual physical form. For example, considering the forms that I use from the body/ of the body, I don't think it would be possible to isolate a single component, such as a leg, without reference to the whole, without an understanding of the whole body. My current work simultaneously investigates numerous kinds of imagery and ideas, including collapse, decay, and destruction.

KW: Does your work have a narrative?

RK: I use a narrative that is not fixed or stable; everything is in a state of flux. The body is what I use as narrative - it is more dependable than any other form of language.

KW: Your work Is so sensory that many of Its aspects are beyond language. Does theorizing or speaking of It diminish It In any way?

RK: My titles operate as signposts or hints, but my work is a language in and of itself. Language is what we have to engage with, something continuous that connects with our "discontinuous" life. I am concerned that conversation around my practice might create a separation from what it is. Language over- emphasizes certain aspects at the expense of others, and it leaves out a huge part because my work doesn't lend itself to words. I don't make ideas or models of thoughts. It's impossible for me to itemize what is in my work.

KW: What Is your relationship to the figurative tradition ?

RK: I feel that my practice is separated from this question, removed from it. I don't make a conscious decision to accept or reject any tradition. I work from the body. Our bodies are our source of reference; we experience the world with our bodies. They are our locus of knowledge, of our life. We can register experience in a visceral way for which there are no words, no real means to communicate what it feels to be alive.

KW: I was a bit surprised to see critics characterize your work as "horrific" and shocking, an aggregate of sex and death. How do< you perceive the nature and Intended Impact of your Imagery?

RK: This is the biggest misconception about my practice. It's a frequent response to my work, but far from my intent. People are so repressed that sensuality and sexual depictions of the body remain taboo, and any hint of them renders the work pornographic. …

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