Sculpture Prize 2010

Dexter Dymoke

We Love This Place presented by Professor David Raison RCA

Steve Bunn interviews Dexter Dymoke about his new sculpture, commissioned by the Friends of Battersea Park. Battersea Park Review issue 87

Steve Bunn: First of all, congratulations on winning the 13th Annual Award for Sculpture for your piece entitled, “We love this place” currently sited adjacent to the Millennium Arena.

Dexter Dymoke: Thanks; it was great to have been selected by the committee. I’d made a small model of my proposal that was exhibited alongside nine or ten other proposals from students at the Royal College of Art.

SB: The sculpture in the park tends to be exhibited on a pedestal, plinth or stand. Your piece establishes a direct relationship with the ground, as it were un-framed by such traditional methods of
display, could you say something about that?

DD: Well I had it in mind to animate the ground with an illusory implication. A basic consideration of the “ground” would simply be to acknowledge it as a surface to put things on – like a plinth. But you could ask, what is this interface that reminds us compellingly of the laws of physics, or which conveniently
contains all our messy network of sustenance, or indeed concentrates our minds on ideas of ownership and our roles as social beings. Our relationship with this important mass is literally one sided. We scurry about perpetually in a single plane, the plane of the ground itself, gaining little insight into what it actually
is. Perhaps we’re not really interested in the “ground” because we need it to remain exactly as it is. Or do we? How often have we heard the sentence “I just wish the ground could have swallowed me up!” An embarrassing moment elicits a desire for the ground to conveniently liquefy. I thought: “Why not!” A park
and a park bench have a symbiotic relationship which I wanted to emphasise in a playful way. So it’s not really about “display” – it’s a bit more inclusive than that. A park bench can have a role to memorialise a place – the plinth base sculpture by Eric Kennington at the end of the central avenue memorialises an event, indeed a whole era. My piece partly emphasizes the “here and now” through the animation of its location, hence the titles’ present tense.

SB: Forty years ago, more or less to the day, the influential British conceptual artist Bruce McLean posed for a series of photographs in which the artist is seen to straddle, sprawl and slump over 3 white plinths. His intention was to humorously highlight the pompous monumentality of Henry Moore’s reclining figures. Have you re-made the plinth in the form of a park bench, and if so, are you expecting passer-by participation?

DD: It seems to me that amongst other things a plinth is a formal location and as such emphasizes the separateness of a work of art from its audience. This approach is understood and accepted but is not my approach with this piece. I guess it has an informal air and as such I would expect there probably will be some physical engagement with it. Good! Whilst we’re on British conceptual artists, I actually had in mind Keith Arnatt`s “Self Burial (Television Interference Project)” of 1969 which was documented in such a way as to show the artist being gradually swallowed up by the ground (this refers back to the previous answer). It’s hilarious because he looks so serious during the process. What’s interesting to me about that piece is its rock solid imaginative authenticity. The series of images look so logical – it’s making a very strong visual case. It seems to me that art should be (amongst other things) a forum for those “what if…” kind of questions.

SB: Often an opportunity such as the one the Friends of The Park offer throws-up some interesting challenges to gallery artists. Do you regard your piece to have added a new development to your portfolio?

DD: Yes I think so. I think studio or gallery work links to a particular kind of investigative and exploratory way of working. There’s a sense hopefully of developing a practice, which has a kind of personal integrity. With a project such as that in Battersea Park, there is a sense of meeting an audience half way – which is a good challenge. One has to be creative with one’s creativity, and that’s OK. I’ve done a few other pieces in similar circumstances and I think it can be a particular strand of a practice that can be separate from, but informed by, studio work.

SB: I was interested in the material from which you made the piece for the park. At first glance, the proportions are redolent of a wooden park bench, but closer inspection reveals a fascinating comparison to some of the metalwork within the Festival Gardens. I’ve always enjoyed the carnival atmosphere of the area. For you, does the piece contain such heady delights?

DD: Yes it does! The piece is quite simple really but hints at a kind of magic, which is how I hope it will engage with the people who use the park.

SB: Thanks Dexter, I look forward to seeing the work over the forthcoming seasons.

DD: Thanks very much