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James Angus

Mountains, Valleys, Caves  2005

bronze, synthetic polymer paint

40.5 × 61.5 × 34cm

Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Michael Hawker, 2009


About the Artwork

In naming this work Mountain, Valleys, Caves James Angus directs audience attention to the natural world and its geological formations, even though the sculpture is drawn from a far more abstract and conceptual model. Mountains, Valleys, Caves is based on a monocoque, a structural system found in nature which is replicated in built forms to create load-bearing surfaces such as aeroplane parts. Angus was inspired by nineteenth-century algebraic models he saw in London, some of which depicted a monocoque structure, which he considered ‘incredibly beautiful … undulating shapes which describe very simple algorithms’. In 1930s Paris the surrealist artist Man Ray was similarly inspired to photograph the mysterious shapes of French mathematician Henri Poincaré’s mathematical models, once used as educational tools in the late nineteenth century.

The smooth, flowing undulations of the peaks and troughs in Mountain, Valleys, Caves bring to mind natural formations like stalagmites or the conceptual arrangement of data in a graph. This intersection of the physical and the conceptual, the natural and the abstract, and its relationship to traditional properties of sculpture such as scale, volume and form is the mainstay of Angus’ practice. In other works he has transformed objects from the manmade and natural worlds by playing with their scale, or distorting them through the imagined physical effects of velocity, or by turning them inside out. In Mountain, Valleys, Caves Angus emphasises the sculptural quality of the work by making it visible from above and from the side, its bronze, wavelike underbelly rough and unpainted in contrast to the acrylic perfection of its upper surface

I’m really interested in what happens when things are made to be actual. Now that chunks of the world are so saturated with cable connections and video monitors … it seems to me that the value of experiencing an actual place at an actual time is somehow being undermined. And one of the great conditions of sculpture is that it provides resistance to all this. It doesn’t translate into pixels. You have to be there.

James Angus, ‘Between science and fiction’, James Angus, MCA, Sydney, 2006, p.74

VIDEO: James Angus interviewed during his solo exhibition at MCA in 2006

In this short film James Angus explains why he has no idea what caused him to put his yellow rhino, Rhinoceros (1995), on the wall or why he made it yellow… except maybe to cause problems. An artist not afraid to suggest questions rather than provide answers, James discusses his intriguing work.

James Angus

– About the artist

Born 1970, Perth. Lives and works New York, United States.

James Angus’ practice draws on natural and built forms to investigate how sculpture can mediate our perception and experience of the physical world. He collaborates with industrial designers and 3D computer engineers in the construction of his sculptures, which are made from materials ranging from fibreglass to steel. His recent work pursues his interest in formal engineering structures and materials like steel beams and piping. Distorted and warped to belie their structural integrity and purpose, his twisted girders and bloated pipes make us consider not only the history and aesthetics of sculpture but also of our built environment and urban fabric.

 Angus’ selected solo exhibitions include John Deere Model D, Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York (2013); James Angus, Triple V, Paris (2012); James Angus, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2010); and James Angus, MCA, Sydney, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria and Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth (2006–07). Selected group exhibitions include Re-Corbusier, Maison La Roche, Villa Jeanneret, Paris (2015); You Imagine What You Desire, 19th Biennale of Sydney (2014); Lightness of Being, City Hall Park, New York (2013); Your Gallery, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2012); Out of the West: Art of Western Australia from the National Collection, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2011); Cubism, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2009); and To Make a Work of Timeless Art: MCA Primavera Acquisitions, MCA, Sydney (2008). Angus’ work was selected for the Biennale of Sydney in 2002, 2008 and 2014 and has been shown in galleries and biennales in New York, Paris, South Korea and Sydney.

 Angus has completed a number of public sculpture commissions, including Day in Day Out, 1 Bligh Street, Sydney (2011) and Grow Your Own, Forrest Place, Perth (2011). His work is held in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Portrait Gallery, Canberra; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Newcastle Art Gallery, NSW; Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, New Zealand; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

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