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David Henderson's 'Disturbances' is a visual language on the flow of movement in nature

David Henderson's sculptures in Disturbances at Slag & RX, New York, conceptually translate tensions across organic and art realms to navigate spatial motion of nature.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Jun 08, 2023

The quintessential definitive element of nature 'balance' when identified with the shape and form of sculpture art is a rare find. The New York-based multimedia artist David Henderson embraces this infrequent phenomenon yet titles his solo exhibition Disturbances—a showcase of a selection of works from his large oeuvre made between 2019 to the present at Slag & RX, New York. Nature, movement, and sound serve as a muse to captivating artworks by Henderson, who has dedicated his career to sculpting grand organic shapes that emerge from materials such as wood, fibreglass, and steel. The sculptures are known for the conceptual design translations of nature and the environment; through round and symmetrical forms, they distill the essence of natural elements into abstractions of geometric design. This translation leads to the tension or disturbance in terms of capturing the interconnectedness, rhythm, and balance, otherwise found in natural systems. The order found in these sculptures despite the uniquely carved angles and twists simultaneously spark contemplation on the intricate beauty and resilience of the natural world.

Erebus, 2023 Plywood and Paint | David Henderson |Disturbances | STIRworld
Erebus, 2023, Plywood and Paint Image: Courtesy of SLAG & RX Gallery

In an interview with STIR, Henderson elaborates on the title of the art exhibition Disturbances and how does it complement the works on the display. “The title is a suggestion of how to read the works in the show. They imply a narrative of a physical disturbance, made visible in the ripples, which may be sound, water, or earth. The ripples are a visible record of an unseen event. The other pieces in the show record the pathways of flat shapes moving along helical curved paths; they are inspired by, and sometimes resemble, birds, though they could be more accurately described as flight paths made solid. The title hints (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) at an overriding narrative in the show: there has been a disturbance, nature has been unsettled, and the birds have flown away.”

Disturbances delves into Henderson's exploration of the movement of triangles and circles into digital architecture through digital technology, which are moulded by the hand. These pieces hover on the precipice of technology and hand carving—seamlessly oscillating between ideal mathematical models and naturally resplendent forms. While seemingly contradictory at first glance, the two bodies of work showcased in this exhibition engage in a harmonious dialogue, juxtaposing fire against water, sharp edges against fluid curves, quasi-figurative helixes against undulating topographies. These artistic dichotomies, however, find their foundation in Henderson's process of "transformative geometry". Henderson endeavours to imbue the forms with a weightless quality, all while highlighting their organic origins with his meticulous selection of the natural material and hand-carving structures.

Exhibition view of Disturbances, 2023, Sculptural Installations | David Henderson |Disturbances | STIRworld
Exhibition view of Disturbances, 2023, Sculptural Installations Image: Courtesy of SLAG & RX Gallery

Towards this end, there is a notable reorientation in the realm of built architecture influenced by the aesthetic principles found in these minimalistic geometrical sculptures. Architects and designers are embracing clean lines, simplicity, and a reduction of unnecessary ornamentation. This shift reflects a desire for harmonious integration with the surrounding environment, an emphasis on spatial experience, and a focus on the essential reorientation of form and function. By drawing inspiration from minimalistic geometrical sculptures, architecture is transformed into a sculptural art form, where pure geometric shapes, precise proportions, and restrained material palettes create spaces that are visually serene: does not eschew the space to evoke a moment of pondering around our ever-evolving built environment.

Firebird 3, 2020 Plywood and Beeswax |David Henderson|Disturbances | STIRworld
Firebird 3, 2020, Plywood and Beeswax Image: Courtesy of SLAG & RX Gallery

To arrive at this point of attaining manipulation or disturbance in the architectural structure, the material is kernel to the process-driven sculptures. Henderson mentions, “I use plywood and sometimes foam and fiberglass. Sculpture is traditionally heavy, but I have an obsession with light weight, and these materials have properties that can be used to achieve that. I like to have the hand clearly visible in the work, and carved wood is ideal for that. I work closely with the materials to develop processes which translate complex 3D computer models into tangible objects.” These structures aspire to achieve the abstract purity of their computer-generated counterparts, with their beauty residing in the juxtaposition between material potential and mathematical theory. Yet, boundaries are blurred when edges become delicately thin, and the wood grain defies the notion of pristine surfaces.

In the Firebirds, their rough edges and the distinctive grain of the wood reveal the true beauty of imperfection. Despite their flaws and fractured edges, the firebirds rise triumphantly from the ashes in the myths of classical Greek and Roman literature—an embodiment of a resplendent and potent essence, symbolising the renewal of life following a period marked by tumultuous years of devastation and loss. At the heart of Henderson's work, a subtle tension between the mathematical and organic realms persists, an eternal interplay between the idealisation of geometric rendering and the expressive essence of a hand-carved universe. Henderson's sculpture art metaphorically pays homage to nature, evoking the wings of a bird or the undulating motion of water. Yet, they are interpreted through a double mirror of transformation, traversing from nature to a computerised ideal and then returning to nature once more.

Firebird 6 (Raven), 2020 Plywood and Graphite | David Henderson |Disturbances | STIRworld
Firebird 6 (Raven), 2020, Plywood and Graphite Image: Courtesy ofSLAG & RX Gallery

The works grounded in simple geometry often appear organic, “I am inspired by these qualities in nature: efficient use of materials, growth, the trace of movement through time, complex objects built from simple forms following simple rules,” informs Henderson. “I design objects in the same way, using squares, circles, arcs and triangles in closely defined interactions. I am fascinated by the record of motion we see in mountains, waves, and plants. It represents time made visible.” Geometrical sculptures convey a sense of serenity and order, while simultaneously sparking contemplation on the intricate beauty and resilience of the natural world. In conclusion, the sculptural artist is affirmative about the strong conceptual grounding which speaks to the visceral self of the viewer. He hopes to astonish the viewer with objects and spaces that invite one in, and that leave them with a sense of wonder at how they are made and a sense of calm at the slowed-down motions made visible.

The exhibition Disturbances by David Henderson is on view at Slag & RX, New York until June 10, 2023.

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