Describing his work, Richard Deacon (born Bangor, Wales, 1949) has said: Changing the materials from one work to the next is a way of starting afresh each time (and thus completing the previous work), explaining his use of wood, polyester resin, ceramic, staples, steel and glass in the creation of his sculptures. Deacon makes use of any element or object that can be found in an ironmongers but with totally new and innovative results. Our preconceived ideas about the materials that he employs have little to do with the final results, in which the rigid or fragile nature of any particular material places no limits on creativity. Deacon moulds pieces in order to create unique and visually imposing sculptures.
For Fernando Francés, Director of the CAC Málaga
: Deacons sculptures, installed in the Centres main gallery, will envelop the visitor in a special atmosphere and one that assists in a careful analysis of what lies before our eyes, the history of a material from its very origins. Richard Deacon undertakes a highly detailed study of what he encounters, be it a piece of metal, glass, wood, polyester, pvc or ceramic, and constructs a discourse around it. He takes account of the entire process. Start, middle and finish. Everything makes sense at the end. The phrase used as the works title is also analysed and is conceived as representing something more than mere empty words. Once the works in themselves have been contemplated, the entire space becomes filled with content in a coherent, meaningful way.
Richard Deacon belongs to the generation of new British sculpture, comprising a group of artists who became known in the 1980s and who are characterised by their ingenious use of materials that are to be found in post-industrial, consumer-based British society. In addition, these artists are celebrated for the conceptual rigour of their work, which is generally abstract. Alongside Deacon, the groups members are Tony Cragg, Anish Kapoor (both of whom have been the subject of exhibitions at the CAC Málaga) and Antony Gormley. All have enjoyed enormous ongoing critical success and recognition.
Richard Deacon studied at Saint Martins School of Art, which was associated at that time with both performance and sculpture. In the 1970s he focused on the former, holding the exhibition Objects and Sculpture. His work evolved in the 1980s and he began to create sculptures characterised by their capacity to interact with their surroundings and by the use of a wide range of materials and forms. Before undertaking a work, Deacon undertakes a detailed study of the material to be used and its interaction with the surroundings. The originality of his output soon attracted the attention of the art world and in 1987 he was awarded the prestigious Turner Prize.
Deacons work is striking for its geometrical forms expressed through organic materials. His sculptures range from monumental works with unusual finishes to small pieces on pedestals, which, taken as a whole, acquire a specific meaning. In addition, for Deacon artistic activity has to have a theoretical basis that gives it sense. He is interested in language, the semantic value of worlds and what they symbolise within the work as a whole. The titles of his sculptures are carefully chosen in order to form part of the final result and possess the same importance as the other elements within it. Finally, the place that the sculpture occupies in space and the holes or voids that it produces are elements to be taken into account in the viewers overall perception.
Another defining feature of Deacons work is the way that he carefully describes each step in the creation of the work and does not conceal the working process in the lead-up to the final result in a process that could be described as comparable to a diary. In addition to two previously unexhibited sculptures, the present exhibition at the CAC Málaga includes mural paintings and works in ceramic, the latter a material with which Deacon had previously worked but which he began to use in a more committed manner from 1999 onwards with surprising results. A guiding thread in the artists work is the way that he establishes a comparison between social structures and the forms of his sculptures. The name or title of the piece emphasises this idea, through which Deacon focuses on the social mechanisms that unify or divide society and thus makes it visible. Deacon has remained faithful to his particular working method and intellectual approach despite the evolution of his work, which has always been located within the context of the avant-garde both for his use of materials and for the way they are put together.
Richard Deacon has a PhD in Literature, is a professor of the School of Fine Arts in Paris, has been invited professor at numerous universities around the world, is a member of the Royal Academy, London, a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in France, and has been made a KBE in Britain. His first solo exhibition was held at The Gallery, Brixton (London) in 1978, since when his work has been shown in the worlds leading galleries and museums, including: the Riverside Studios in 1984; Tate Gallery, London, in 1985; the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, in 1988; and Tate Liverpool in 1999. Deacon was one of three artists who represented Wales at the 52nd Venice Biennial. He has exhibited regularly at the Lisson Gallery, London, since 1983, at the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, since 1986, and at the Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery, Paris-Salzburg, since 2006. From 1981 onwards Richard Deacon has participated in numerous group exhibitions around the world. A major retrospective of his work entitled The Missing Part took place at the Musée dArt Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, in 2010 then travelled to the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, in 2011. He will be the subject of a major retrospective at Tate Britain in 2014.