Richard Swanson: Statement

Biography | Resume | Artist's Statement

Richard Swanson The diverse nature of my sculptural output is due in part to my penchant for exploring new materials. In work created between 1994 and 2000 I utilize the natural tendencies of materials such as burdock (wants to clump) and straw (wants to scatter) but also persuade them to do the unexpected-- insubstantial materials totter skyward, solid metal pieces rock or sway with the slightest touch or breeze. Other materials are coaxed to balance, toplike, or soar in an arching sequence of repetitive forms reminiscent of timelapse images. 

The rhythms set up by these interactions of form and space are of perpetual interest to me and constitute a major part of my aesthetic. Use of an installation format allows me to extend these rhythmic interactions, engaging an entire space with forms rising from the floor, springing from the walls and suspended from the ceiling. I want the viewer to feel a sense of enchantment upon entering a truly novel environment.
Collaborations with choreographers are a natural extension of these sculptural explorations. Dancers animate the sculptures and the sculptures allow the dancers to move in unfamiliar ways, encouraging both sculptor and dancer to explore new rhythmic possibilities, while adding dimension to an age old concern of the sculptor--that of breathing life into inanimate material.

Scissors and paper are the design tools for my “cutout” series of metal sculptures created between 2000 and 2004. In a spontaneous process of folding and expanding shapes cut from paper both volume and negative space are created simultaneously, resulting in unexpected new forms. Out of myriad paper designs I pick a few of the most successful to scale up in metal.

Large-scale metal works begun in 2005 create rhythms that are more eccentric than in previous work. I think of as these as three dimensional ink drawings or as jazz phrases--no hidden meanings, just something pure, lyrical, and sometimes loopy, with the interval between notes as essential as the notes themselves.

The intimate scale of new metal works begun in 2013 make possible a level of spontaneity harder to achieve at a large scale. This manifests itself in freer use of color, form, line and sometimes pure silliness. They are akin to poetic phrases that suggest a little story or dream fragment.