Knots - the evolution of a theme by Damon Hildreth
Some years ago I had reached a dead end doing sculptures based on triangles. I asked myself: what's next? I had done somework with strips, so I thought what can I do with strips? I had set myself a problem to solve, which is kind of how I work. I was playing with strips of paper. An art dealer sent me pictures or someone's work based on two strips of metal of the same length. I thought they were lame and I guess the dealer did as well. I did four pieces – first in aluminum, then bigger, in steel.
I work with thin aluminum at first. I get an idea, and do it with aluminum, then duplicate it in steel making it twice the size, and I play around with it, watching it, seeing where it goes. I’ve been doing knots for about 5 years. I start quite small – maybe 6 inches tall. At this stage I’m using very thin material – aluminum, which is easy to play with. I use thinner steel for pieces that are 12 or 18 inches big. Sometimes what I end up with is completely different from the initial idea. Other times, there’s not much difference at all. The final piece may be 12 feet tall. (See Illustrations.)
What I do is scalable. An idea can become a small, medium, or large sized sculpture. It’s material — neutral. I can do the same piece in steel, brushed steel, black, red or bronze.
The downside of naming abstract sculptures is that it’s too much of a pointer. it limits the way the viewer responds to a piece. I can never think of names. I like abstract work in a sequence because I can number the pieces. Numbers are abstract.
Things have happened over the past few years that changed the way I work: Two or three years ago I was seeking a new angle. I got together with some painter friends and said, ”Give me one of your paintings and I’ll do a sculpture of it.” I did two sculptures like this, and it opened up a completely new direction for me. A lot more dynamic.
Some time after that I was looking at all the pieces I had done, all my work, and I didn’t like much of it. I liked the two sculptures I’d done in response to the paintings. I needed to blow everything up, throw everything in a big pile and start all over again.
The other thing that happened was that I went back to school. People, some of the students, were telling me I was already good, that I didn’t need to be there. But I learned a lot. One lesson was that I got used to throwing things away. That’s what you do at art school… create a bunch of stuff and throw most of it away. Process over product. The Knots sculptures have a feeling of imminent movement about them, like the tension that’s there before something’s about to take off, a dance about to begin, a flame about to rise. And there’s a calligraphic feel to them. Someone said they make him think of buds. I said a bud is the essence of a flower.