Eileen Agar's Found Sculptures

Julia Kelly
Institute Lecture
24th June 2015
Henry Moore Institute Seminar Room, 6pm

Eileen Agar
'Marine Object'
Terracotta, horn, bone and shells

© The Estate of Eileen Agar
Photo: © Tate, London 2015

On the occasion of the exhibition Eileen Agar: Natural Ready-mades, this talk examines Agar's use of found natural objects with perceived 'sculptural' qualities.

Julia Kelly sets these objects, such as stones, bones, shells and other forms of marine life, within both the context of 'shell work,' popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and within the tradition of their collection and display, including the shell grottoes dating from the Renaissance onwards. Reconsidering Agar's artistic production in the 1930s, Dr Kelly re-situates these examples within a surrealist context, particularly in relation to aquatic and maritime concepts and imagery.

Found natural objects were part of a repertory of assembled elements used by artists in the early twentieth century, their meanings often related to intellectual concepts of the period - vitalism in philosophy, animism in anthropology, and the artistic tendency termed biomorphism.

In these situations the found objects often appear as spectacular self-generating forms, shadowing and rivalling the artist's own creative powers. Arguably not sculptures per se, but existing in a productive dialogue with sculpture, this lecture proposes ways of understanding these objects as an imaginative aspect of sculptural production.

Dr Julia Kelly is Research Associate in the School of the Arts, Loughborough University. Her published books include Art, Ethnography and the Life of Objects, Paris c. 1925-1935 (Manchester, 2007); Giacometti: Critical Essays (ed. with Peter Read, Ashgate, 2009); Found Sculpture and Photography from Surrealism to Contemporary Art (ed. with Anna Dezeuze, Ashgate, 2013); and The Sculpture of Bill Woodrow (with Jon Wood, Lund Humphries, 2013). She is currently co-editing (with Catherine Moriarty) a special issue of The Sculpture Journal entitled 'Sculpture and the Sea'.

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