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David Spriggs' sculptural installations challenge the rules of nature

Canadian-British artist David Spriggs, who is synonymous with large-scale 3D ephemeral installations, conjures a three-dimensional landscape to see the unseen.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Apr 18, 2023

The play around the matrix of space and time in the canon of art history anchors an illusionary world, only to question the dynamics of an informed eye. The geometrical shape, when undergoing the process of conscientious reshaping with added layers, in the current scenario, orients the humankind to unpeel what is invisible. The Canadian-British artist David Spriggs, synonymous with large-scale art installations in 3D and ephemeral in nature, conjures a three-dimensional landscape. The optic art, which a slew of art aficionados have alluded to, explain Spriggs’ artistic practice, overseeing an orchestrated run of contrasted colours. Be it a monochromatic palette or a spectrum of RGBs, when integrally constitutes the 3D installations, the built structure of the venue converses with them.

Black and White Series - Hierarchy 2, 2022, Acrylic on layered plexiglass in LED lit plexiglass display case | David Spriggs | STIRworld
Black and White series—Hierarchy 2, 2022, Acrylic on layered plexiglass in LED lit plexiglass display case Image: © David Spriggs

According to the British artist, the concept of ukiyo-e, which translates to "pictures of the floating world,” dominant in the Japanese art of the late 17th century, has an interesting relation to his work. The term ukiyo-e refers to the fleeting and transitory nature of life. His artworks also share some similarities with this concept of ukiyo-e, as he also tries to capture transitory moments and question the nature of reality. The leitmotif drives the installations such as Black and White, Hierarchy, and First Wave. Additionally, the scale of the installations in relation to the space preoccupies the eyes of the viewers, which more often than not creates an illusion of physicality. The height and depth of the installations put the supposed “disparate” parts of the “whole” into a seamless conversation to defy the logic of gravitational rules.

First Wave, 2021, Acrylic paint on layered transparencies, lightbox, framework| David Spriggs | STIRworld
First Wave, 2021, Acrylic paint on layered transparencies, lightbox, framework Image: © Kichirō Okamura

In an interview with STIR, installation artist Spriggs mentions, “In my artwork ephemeral-like forms appear to be suspended in mid-air, as if they are not conforming to the forces of gravity or nature. This creates an interesting dialogue between the physicality of the materials and their immaterial subject. In a conventional sculpture, form is often rooted in gravity and other physical laws, but in my work, I create layered environments which appear to defy physics, where forms can appear to be floating in stasis, and the boundary between the material and immaterial becomes blurred. There is no true form in my artworks, only separate thin image-planes that we interpret in our minds together as form.”

RGB, 2021, Acrylic on layered plexiglass in 3 display cases on pedestals, 2021, David Spriggs | David Spriggs | STIRworld
RGB, 2021, Acrylic on layered plexiglass in three display cases on pedestals Image: © David Spriggs

The installation Black & White was exhibited at the last edition of Noor Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The installation is made with spray-painted pigment on 90 transparencies layered through the architectural space. The two objectified forms of the colours black and white function as a symbol of duality. "The title of the work also refers to the psychology of ‘black and white’, thinking or splitting, a destructive thought pattern of thinking in absolutes—a thought process I see more frequently today with the extreme left and right politics. I have separated the colours into visually opposing entities to lead the viewer to navigate centrally between them," says Spriggs.

Regisole, 2015, Painted layered transparencies, metal framework, David Spriggs| David Spriggs | STIRworld
Regisole, 2015, Painted layered transparencies, metal framework Image: © David Spriggs

Another installation, Hierarchy, part of a series of artworks occupied by the contrast of colours black and white, is a survey of these colours in an abstract compositional form. Spriggs draws inspiration from the modernist tradition in arts and artists, particularly Mark Rothko, to dig deeper into the realm of power and domination. The Stratachrome sculpture even with its binaries, in terms of colour, does not fail to hint at the nuanced power dynamics. The abstraction dovetailed with the complexity of the installation extends as a metaphoric commentary to defy the conventional understanding of social constructs. 

Vision II, 2017,Painted layered transparent sheets, David Spriggs| David Spriggs | STIRworld
Vision II, 2017, Painted layered transparent sheets Image: © David Spriggs

The colours, besides the scale of the installations, act as a point of access through which the phenomena of space-time, the edifice of power and organised surveillance are put to the fore for the viewers. In a similar vein, the installation art First Wave by Spriggs, exhibited at the Oku-Noto Triennale in Suzu, Japan, was created during COVID-19 pandemic. The artwork is made up of 90 transparent sheets painted with hues of red and put together in an array of layers to create an illusion of tsunami wave. The searing colour of red associated with blood raises the emotional investment of the viewers. The title of the artwork, First Wave, speaks to the cataclysmic effect of the pandemic as well as the luminary Hokusai print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa in the history of Japanese art history. 

Black and White series—Hierarchy 2, 2022, Acrylic on layered plexiglass in LED lit plexiglass display case Video: © David Spriggs

In the chapter Interlude: Of Force Fields and Rhythm Contours from his book Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy, Erin Manning describes the experience of watching Spriggs' animates sculptures as “where we no longer simply observe—we are moved by the experience of watching, and we move with it. We note the contours but feel the colours.” The artist is hopeful that the viewer will engage and consider the concepts and subject matter that he has focused on. While the layering technique he developed in 1999 is interesting, yet, he thinks that "there is a lot more going on behind each artwork. New questions should arise from each artwork and challenge the viewer to see it differently. Through my artwork I explore phenomena, space-time and movement, colour, visual systems and surveillance, the strategies and symbols of power, and the thresholds of form and perception,” ruminates Spriggs.

David Spriggs’ Portrait | David Spriggs | STIRworld
David Spriggs, 2023, Photograph Image: © Pauline Gouablin

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