Paul de Monchaux, Fixing Memory: Sculpture 1986 – 2013, The Piper Gallery, London
Zoe Pilger is an art critic for The Independent and winner of the 2011 Frieze International Writers Prize. Her first novel, Eat My Heart Out, will be published by Serpent's Tail in February 2014. She is also researching a PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London, on the subject of romantic love and sadomasochism in the work of contemporary female artists. She has appeared on BBC's The Review Show and Sky News
Thursday 14 February 2013
According to Mayan legend, The Pyramid Of The Magician was created over a single night. Some versions state that the magician was a dwarf, hatched out of an egg under the spell of his mother, a witch.
The pyramid is located in the ancient city of Uxmal in Yucatán, Mexico, and provides the inspiration for a bronze sculpture by Montreal-born, London-based artist Paul de Monchaux, 78.
While the pyramid is the largest structure in Uxmal, de Monchaux’s work is less than half a metre tall. The mythical images that adorn the walls of the original are absent here. The stairs of de Monchaux’s sculpture, Uxmal (2008), tilt downwards at a queasy angle. The animistic power of the pyramid is exchanged for smooth, cold form.
De Monchaux has said that “formal invention alone can generate emotional responses that have no names.” Indeed, it is difficult to describe his “sculpture city.” These works appear self-contained to the point of being closed off entirely. Rather than emotion, they generate a sense of clean and total control.
This is de Monchaux’s first exhibition in a private gallery. He was Head of Fine Art at Camberwell until he retired in 1986, and has created several publically commissioned sculptures, including Symmetry (1993), the Wilfred Owen memorial at Shrewsbury Abbey.
The Piper Gallery is unique for representing artists whose careers span 40 years or more yet have been overlooked due to the art market’s emphasis on youth. Megan Piper, 28, is a talented gallerist but this exhibition doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Volute III (2008) is a black bronze sculpture that continues the Mayan theme in the form of a serpent curling back on itself. Like the pyramid, it uses the visual language of myth and symbol yet denies such meaning.
De Monchaux describes himself as a “figurative sculptor,” responding to “things” rather than ideas. These works do not appear figurative but refer to the human body in an oblique way.
Song School (2009) hints at lovers conjoined, while the delicate dips and divisions of Ellipse (2005) recall the roundness of a Henry Moore, who likewise was influenced by pre-Columbian art.
Moore’s early reclining female figures were indebted to a photograph that he came across in 1922 of Chacmool, a carving of the Mayan rain spirit.
There is a stillness to these works. But their refusal to yield much to the viewer is frustrating rather than mysterious.
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
- 2 This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
- 3 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Spectre: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming James Bond movie
Indian Summers recommissioned: Channel 4 confirm a second series of British Empire drama
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
The Casual Vacancy finale review: Superb cast, luscious cinematography - shame about the confused ending
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut