Killing Time (detail), Maple Bracing, 2003-2004, 108 x 184 x 118 cm
Ricky Swallow works in exchanges; exchanges of materials, time and space. Relationships between things, between lives, and the stuff that makes up daily life. Memorials are pieced together from the narratives of human existence; the discarded, once valued but now forgotten. Like the bricoleur put into popular usage by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss in his book The Savage Mind, Ricky Swallow draws from his immediate surroundings, but in a form of second order bricoleur, where things are elegantly crafted from wood, plaster and bronze.
Fig. 1, English Lime wood, 2008, 24 x 20 14 cm
The visible remnants of a passage of time, and the physical work involved in sculpture seeps from the works. It can be seen in the intricate rendering of fish and crustaceans strewn across a model of the family table of Swallow’s youth in Killing Time (2003-04), or in the recreation of the feathers and fur strung up, the prize of a hunt in Salad days (2005). The paper sheath cloaking a hidden scull in Fig 1. (2008) is as delicate and translucent as the real thing. Amazing. Awe inspiring.
Wood is a living material, it expands, contracts, and ages with time just like the relationships we have with objects. It is not static, just as our memories are not static. They morph, grow and sometimes disappear. They form the by products of our lives, a testimony to the person we have become. And our memories are forever bottled-up in the things we collect, the things that we cannot let go.
Rife with autobiographical associations, Swallow reclaims the still life genre in these pieces to explore his own personal narrative. Recapturing a memory through the strong associations forever inextricably linked with objects, Swallow makes a point of salvaging and honouring the things that continue to resonate strongly in his life. This long train of objects and images are documented in a daily dose on his blog Ready for the House. From animals to wood, via fishing, lamps, loot and love, it’s easy to see how the oddest things strike a chord somewhere within us.
Back between the white walls of the Ian Potter, walking amongst these forms it’s hard not to feel the longing tied up in the wood, the bronze and the plaster. Although the works are merely recreations of actual objects, you can feel their longing to be part of the real world, to be more than just a container for something bigger than themselves. Instead the works manage to unify the description of all that we imbue in an object into one complete experience. They are a pace away from real life, but you can’t help but feel that without them real life might slip away.
"It’s overly romantic, but there is some kind of emotional struggle to make anything in the studio work. If I think something is really moving, I want everyone that’s close to me to have experienced the same thing... it’s something about a lasting impression and the sculptures are supposed to be a lasting impression of something else."