DARWIN BI-CENTENARY TABLE SCULPTURE : Laurence Edwards (b. 1967) in collaboration with Lucy Johnson
This table sculpture was conceived as a tribute to one of the most original and influential thinkers in the history of science. The bronze sculptures were commissioned from Laurence Edwards and are unique. The forms, lines and space shift as the viewpoint changes, and the narrative is thought provoking.
LAURENCE EDWARDS: When Lucy Johnson asked me if I would consider making a table to celebrate Charles Darwin. I explained that I was not a furniture maker, and could not conceive of ever being one. If I was to take the project on, I had to find a way of thinking about a table that would allow me to consider it as a sculpture. Before problems of composition and ‘making it look interesting’, I had to think of what the tabletop could mean. I thought of the plane as a threshold. It could represent a border or a barrier, a ceiling or lid. I could see the heavy top representing the restrictive, conservative social pressures, which thinkers like Darwin overcame.
With these ideas, I could now consider the look of the table and what would happen in the shadows under it. I thought of casting wood into bronze, I liked the idea of two versions of the same material, the old wood of the top and the bronze of the branches below. The bronze presenting a different view of wood. The material this table was made of, could therefore mirror the way in which people were having to question how they evolved, after reading ‘The origin of the species’.
With this conceptual framework in place I wanted to add a narrative. I decided to place a mysterious seated figure bearing antlers, in one of the woodlands. These long antlers extended from the characters head beyond the borders of the trees, preventing him from moving; his own head in effect imprisoning him. He looks sheepishly from his wooded cell, at another man running from his. This running man could represent the idea of Darwin, or at the very least the idea of the pursuit of knowledge. He is thinking out from the shadows, seeking light, daring to question what might be on top.
LUCY JOHNSON: While reading Bicentenary articles and visiting the Darwin exhibitions at the Natural History Museum and in Cambridge, I was struck how his theories of evolution by natural selection and adaption to particular environments have contributed more to our understanding of the world than any other, and brought about a revolution in how we think about ourselves and the natural world.
This inspired me to create a tribute to one of the most original and influential thinkers in the history of science; a piece of art but in abstract form.
I wanted Laurence Edwards of Creek Men fame, to sculpt the base for the table. One of the figureheads in the contemporary art world, his work has great integrity reflecting how he considers and engages with his subject, creating work that is incredibly subtle and powerful, while pushing boundaries to their limit. His closeness to the land and its cycles and rhythms, lie at the heart of his sensibility, and his art addresses past, present and future, stimulating strong thoughts and ideas about who and what we are, where we belong and the consequences of our dislocation from nature and our roots. I approached Laurence with trepidation, aware that as one of our leading contemporary sculptors he may not take the commission, since furniture is generally dismissed, at best, as applied art. Having discussed the commission in depth, the form presented itself, and I stepped back to allow his expression complete freedom as the sculptures take shape and evolve.
The table sculptures were conceived as a pair, and to accommodate different types of top depending on taste and functional requirement. They are shown here united with a 3 1/2 inch thick, 16th century, French, oak, monastery, table top. However; they can accomodate a single, top of various lengths up to 12ft, or even a pair of tops to create 2 smaller, tables, rectangular, square or round. They can also be united with tops of different mediums such as stone, glass, tiles or wood.
The table sculptures are shown here united with a 3 1/2 inch thick, 16th century, French, oak, monastery, table top which in itself is a rare and sought after piece. It is said that the heart of the home is the kitchen table, and the same is true of the monastic home. Saint Benedict’s Rule devoted ten chapters to the monastic table and to providing and serving food as well as necessities; including chapters on the sick, the aged, and children. That arrangement makes it clear that the table is about care, not just discipline. In its original use, one or more refectory tables were placed within the monks’ dining hall or refectory. The larger refectories would have a number of refectory tables where monks would take their meals, often while one of the monks read sacred texts from an elevated pulpit, frequently reached from a stone staircase to one side of the refectory.
REFERENCE : Monastery tables in recent auctions
• The Bruno Perrrier Collection, Ader-Tajan, 6th April 1992, lot 9, table de monastere, a rare 16th/17th century oak and beech, ‘Bigtourdane’ table. The name is given to tables made around Bagneres de Bigorrre, in the Pyrenees. The table was 361cm long and 100cm wide. . It sold for FF 650,000 /£ 65,000
• Sothebys, Haute Epoque, 29th October 2003, lot 109 is a related, oak trestle table described as 15th/16th century, probably Burgundian which was 292cm/9ft 7 in long and 89cm/2ft 11in wide and sold for £110,000.
• Sothebys, Haute Epoque, 1st November 2005, lot 8, a French, Gothic oak trestle table described as 16th/17th century which was 273cm/8ft 11in long and 93cm/2ft.3.5 wide, sold for £ 48,000.
The ancient, thick, rustic top compliments the rawness of Edwards work, and I think this table is unique as it pushes the boundaries of how furniture is conceived and hopefully perceived. Not only is a magnificent piece of sculpture, where the forms, lines and space shift as the viewpoint changes, but thought provoking with a narrative that has integrity and, of course, have the ability to fulfill many versatile functions such as display, writing, dining and so on.
Length 186 cm. 72in., Depth 58 cm., 23 in. Thickness 9 cm., 3 ½ in., Height 82 cm., 32 in.,
The table sculptures is also shown here united with a mammoth, 10ft, 8in long top, Pterocarpus sp, which is indigenous to South America where Darwin founded many of his theories to illustrate that it can accomodate a long top and be used as a dining table as well as a desk or centre table.
Length 325 cm., 10ft., 8 in., Depth 72 ½ cm., 2ft., 4 ½ in., Thickness 9 cm., 3 ½ in. Height 77cm., 2ft, 6 in.,
This post was written by joecollinson