Edward Allington: Things Unsaid
25 Oct 2019 – 19 Jan 2020
Release date: Tuesday, 9 July 2019
Seeking new ways of ‘moving and matching the complexity of the world’, Edward Allington (1951-2017) was part of a generation of artists responding to changing aesthetic, social and cultural values at the end of the 1970s.
“Sculpture is looking at real things by making real things. It is making poetry with solid objects. ”
Sculptor, writer and educator Edward Allington (1951-2017) made a body of work that was part of a sea change in British sculpture from the 1980s onwards. The title of the exhibition is taken directly from a drawing by the artist in the Leeds Collection and is a reminder that we often know more than can be spoken. The exhibition spans all of the Institute’s gallery spaces as well as Leeds Art Gallery’s Upper Sculpture Study Gallery. It includes fourteen sculptures alongside photographic works, archive material and preparatory objects.
Allington was one of a generation of artists who came to prominence following the group exhibitions Objects and Sculpture at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London and Arnolfini, Bristol in 1981 and The Sculpture Show at the Hayward Gallery and Serpentine Gallery in 1983. Like many of his contemporaries – Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Shirazeh Houshiary, Richard Wentworth and Bill Woodrow to name a few – Allington was responding to a perceived impasse in minimal and conceptual practices that were losing their charge by the end of the 1970s. Responding to changing aesthetic, social and cultural values, artists were seeking new ways of "moving and matching the complexity of the world" (Allington: 1997).
Allington was fascinated by the presence of classical forms in everyday life. An important early work in the exhibition is Ideal Standard Forms, 1980 (Tate), first exhibited in Objects and Sculpture at the ICA. Here Allington reveals an enduring interest in questions around authenticity and imitation, the relationship between sense perception and objects that we physically experience and touch. Nine separate geometric objects formed in plaster are arranged upon the floor in a roughly square format. Each sphere, cone, cube and ellipsoid are hand-made. "I worked using a kind of reduction or removal. I would pour and smear plaster over clay shapes, then dig the clay out so that I was left with crude moulds. And then I scraped, cleaning away all the traces of the original" (Allington: 1997). Discarding the original clay works and retaining the plaster mould changes the hierarchy of forms. Here the universal, ideal forms remain degraded and are inevitably imperfect manifestations that combine the effort of idealisation with the language of mass production. Ideal Standard Forms is triggered by an abiding interest in Greek culture and the debates concerning the theories of forms, described by Plato (429-347 BC). Whilst Ideal Standard Forms refers to the ethereal forms of Plato's philosophy, the decision to abandon the original clay forms challenges the Platonic notions of originality.
Alongside the exhibition, across the bridge in Leeds Art Gallery, a selection of archival material relating to writings, sculptural process and works conceived beyond the gallery is presented. Allington’s approach to writing, like his approach to sculpture was a discursive practice. He contributed a number of notable texts for frieze magazine, including 'Labours of Love: True Confessions of a Spare Parts Freak' and 'Dream Machines'. He wrote catalogue essays for major shows at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (Ed & Nancy Kienholz, 2005), and Tate Modern (Katharina Fritsch, 2002). In 1993 he published a series of polemic essays entitled Method for Sorting Cows that support the notion of sculptural pluralism and multiple readings within the discipline.
The exhibition is guest curated by Judith Winter (Curator, Writer and Lecturer, Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen) in association with Thalia Allington-Wood and the Allington Estate.
About the artist
Edward Allington (b. 1951, Cumbria - 21 September 2017) lived and worked in London. He studied at Lancaster College of Art (1968-71), Central School of Art and Design (1971-74) and at the Royal College of Art (1983-84). Allington’s work is represented in major collections, including the Arts Council Collection, Tate, Leeds Museums and Galleries, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the British Museum; he was also commissioned to create notable public sculpture in UK, Germany and France. He taught at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL (1990-2017), becoming its Head of Graduate Sculpture in 2000 and Professor of Sculpture in 2006. In 2015 he was awarded an AHRC Network Grant for his project Modern Japanese Sculpture, a collaborative research network with the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, and Musashino Arts University, Tokyo.