Visual Arts: The Independent Collector: JULIAN SAINSBURY

JOHN WINDSOR'S GUIDE TO COLLECTING CONTEMPORARY ART
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The Independent Culture
JULIAN SAINSBURY'S first solo show reveals one of his gigantic cast heads and also his latest work - life-size wooden figures carved from plywood cross-sections.

Sainsbury, 32-year-old son of the arts patron, Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover - whose 20-year chairmanship of the family food store made it a market leader - learned classical figure sculpture at the New York Academy of Art.

His work has a touch of the early Renaissance about it - classical stylised forms combined with naturalistic touches. The bulbous backs of the heads seem ancient Egyptian, the noses Greco-Roman, the faces classically expressionless. But the eyes and ears, especially of his later work, are naturalistic and unresolved.

As for the elongation of the bodies, it is a Sainsbury signature - but nevertheless reminiscent of the early Renaissance figure that epitomises the blending of the classical and the naturalistic - Donatello's bronze of a lanky, nude David.

Who are these people? Sainsbury is reticent. "It's important that people make their own personal contact with the pieces and form their own interpretations. For example, if the eyes are not totally complete, people have to invent their own. The figures are a bit like a blank canvas."

But he gives a clue if you ask him why they are all male: "Because I'm male and they are all exploring my emotions."

After studying ceramics at Cardiff College of Art, Sainsbury began using internal armatures to support thin clay figures that were later cast in bronze. Then he switched to plaster to make the models for his giant bronze heads. (A giant head cast in fibreglass, too big for Browse and Darby's Cork Street gallery, is on show on the forecourt of the nearby Museum of Mankind). Most recently, his life-size figures have been carved from plywood cross-sections. The cross-sections are scaled up by computer from bronze maquettes.

Some of his standing wooden figures have plywood sections that are vertical, imparting a vibrant, organic quality. Others, such as his three standing figures in laminated birch, which are pinning their arms to their sides, have horizontal sections, giving the illusion of being bound. He uses horizontal sections for heads, imparting a settled, more refined quality.

Prices: Pebble Head, 5in tall cast iron maquette, edition of 20: pounds 250. Indian Boy, 6in tall bronze head, edition of seven: pounds 850. Standing Bronze Figure, 23ins tall, edition of four: pounds 1,500. Three Standing Figures, 77ins tall, laminated birch: pounds 40,000. Large Head, 8ft tall, bronze, edition of three: pounds 40,000.

Julian Sainsbury, sculpture, until 23 October (Mon-Fri, 10am-5.30pm) at Browse and Darby, 19 Cork Street, London W1 (0171-734 7984)

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