The Independent Collector: John Windsor's Guide to Collecting Contemporary Art. This Week: Dave Morris

IS IT a pile of pigs or a heap of aubergines? Are the pointy bits snouts, stalks or nipples? Is there a buttock or two in there?

Dave Morris's five-foot-tall sculpture in Ancaster freestone evokes what artists these days call a "multiple response". At first glance, it could be any of several different things. The way out of the confusion is to laugh. Many people do. Morris is not in the least offended.

Humour is rare in British sculpture. You can be just as confused by the sculpture of Moore, Hepworth or Caro without getting so much as a titter out of it.

When the giggles subside, the eye focuses on Morris's voluptuous sags and bulges - the weight distribution (to use a dry term) that occurs whenever nature wraps bulky organisms in sacks so that they can pile themselves in heaps without getting tangled up.

Gravity, his sculpture wittily observes, tends to mould piles of fat pigs or piles of ripe aubergines in the same sinuous way. One squashed on the bottom row wearily drops its snout - or is it its stalk? The one lying on top of it raises itself, as if expecting to have its back scratched. Another nuzzles its stalk into its neighbour's soft flank.

The sculpture's title, Body Boat, is little help in deciphering what the bodies are. But the base is actually a storm-tossed vessel - recognisable to those who know Morris's recent work as part of his cargo theme - and the bodies, as a few seconds' investigation will confirm, are clearly aubergines. Pigs? Breasts? Whatever gave you that idea?

Body Boat is one of three in his "Boat" series, begun last year as he approached 50. Aubergines and chillies in seagoing vessels made their debut only four years ago, in a series of six of his sculptures called "South American Trade".

His work before that, although also concerned with mechanics and loading, was quite different. In the 1980s he used discarded builders' timber to make heavy, somewhat threatening yet absurd constructions, such as Walnut Holding Device and Conker Boring Machine - references to the megalomania of Victorian engineers and to the subsequent decay of heavy industry. He was also inspired by the notebooks of his Uncle Jack, a print compositor whose device to speed the production of biscuits was adopted by Huntley & Palmer in the years before the war.

A couple of years ago, he was making giant "still lifes" from timber and laminates - English ones with wooden crockery, cutlery and bottles, and Moroccan ones with oversize versions of the sugar hammers typical of that country.

He would be better known, and his work more expensive, but for his ruthless habit of abandoning themes for new ones, instead of consolidating them - and for his devotion to teaching. For the past 10 years he has been subject leader in sculpture at Loughborough University. His current theme of travel and cargo dates back to his early years among the granite hills of Malvern in Worcestershire, his 10-mile, twice-daily bus journey to school through the bombed industrial wasteland of Birmingham - and his recurring thought that exotic vegetables could be grown on bomb-sites, under glass, instead of shipped from distant continents.

His boat forms, he says, are metaphors for travel, "whilst the fruit or vegetable forms can be read in the actual or as metaphors for people". So if you thought you saw a nipple, do not feel ashamed.

A retrospective of Morris's work of the past four years is at the Diorama Arts Centre, 34 Osnaburgh Street, London NW1, 22 March-1 April (0171- 916 5467/5468). 'Body Boat' is on show at the Ferrers Centre, Staunton Harold, Ashby De-La Zouch, Leics, to 31 March (01332 865408). Prices: 'Body Boat' is pounds 2,850; 'Mixed Cargo' pounds 2,750. Works at the Diorama are mostly in the pounds 1,000-pounds 1,800 range

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering