Tim Noble and Sue Webster return to Blain|Southern
London to present a new body of sculptural works. In their third exhibition with the gallery, Sticks with Dicks and Slits, the duo present pairs of giant self-portraits. These stickfigures are sculpted in twisted bronze, an entirely new method for the artists.
Based on handmade maquettes made with electrical wire, the sculptures are an act of upscaling playful ephemera into physically domineering artworks with a permanency and scale that transcends human limitations.
The artists are well known for reacting to circumstance. They find inspiration by walking city streets and making sculpture from materials closest to hand in an urban environment. In the past this has included inner city detritus, discarded personal objects and animal carcasses. However, the initial maquettes for this new body of work were created during a residency on the Caribbean island of St Barts. This idyllic environment was initially challenging for these urbanites who found themselves stripped of their usual impetus. Struggling with this creative impasse, they began doodling with electrical wire, quickly and intuitively producing two intimate self-portraits.
Part of a great tradition of artists-as-art, their personal image and the dynamic between them is an integral part of their work. As with previous self-portraits, these new paired sculptures express the artistic personae of the duo. One pair features nudes of Tim urinating and Sue lactating engaging in basic bodily functions is a recurring motif for the artists. As much as they have used refuse in their sculptures, the artists employ their own naked forms as a way to make art with a rawness and truth, using their warts-and-all inseparable dual image as a tool to critique narcissistic obsession.
As with the punk and 2 Tone bands who had such an effect on the artists, what defines this duo is a drive to convey a particularly British kitchen sink reality, pushing against the polished veneer of the presiding culture. Their systems of imagery, language and material are as confrontational as early punk gigs where both critique and praise were delivered through bodily fluids. As with this music, the artists play with the tensions of structure and form, purposefully teetering on the edge of chaos.
The size, medium and aesthetic of their new sculptures are yet another bold development in a practice that Noble describes as consistently inconsistent. Working at a scale that seems to contradict the materials, the artists achieve the sketchy, continuous effect of wire by employing the traditional technique of lost wax casting where manipulated rods of wax are replaced by molten bronze. The resulting casts retain the spontaneity of the sculptors hands, and remain humanised and true to the subject. The dimensional qualities vary between each pair yet they are united by a fluidity and lightness of gesture that is rare to see in large-scale sculpture.
Tim Noble (b. Stroud, 1966) and Sue Webster (b. Leicester, 1967) met at art school in 1986, when they both arrived a day late for enrolment. They studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University and starting making work together in 1990.
The artists lived and worked in Bradford and then Halifax, before moving to London in 1992.
The duo has exhibited in the worlds leading galleries and museums, as well as working on projects and commissions beyond the art world, including cover artwork for Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.
In 2009, they were awarded Honorary Degrees of Doctor of Art at Nottingham Trent University in recognition of their contribution to contemporary British Art and their radical influence on younger generations of artists. In 2007 their exhibition Polymorphous Perverse (Freud Museum, 2006) was nominated for the South Bank Prize and they were awarded the ARKEN Prize at Arken, Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen.
Selected permanent collections include: Artis-François Pinault, Paris; The British Museum, London; Dakis Joannou Collection, Athens; Didier Casimiro Collection, Vilvoorde; Nicola Erni Collection, Zug; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; National Portrait Gallery, London; The Olbricht Collection, Berlin; Saatchi Collection, London; Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; and The Zabludowicz Collection, London.