Levity & Gravity is the exhibition at Chichester’s Oxmarket Contemporary
It comes from Russell Webb who lives and works in Brighton and has a studio at Phoenix Art Space, an organisation that provides more than 100 studios to artists and makers.
“Last year I was lucky enough to have been selected by sculptor Laura Ford as winner of the sculpture category in the Oxmarket Open exhibition. This opportunity to show my work is the prize. Obviously to have been chosen by an established and respected artist such as Laura means a lot, particularly when the outcome enables me to have my first solo exhibition for a long time and in a beautiful space like the Oxmarket. In fact, it’s 18 years since my last solo show of sculpture although, having said that, most of the work I’m presenting in this show has been made within the last four or five years.
“My sculptures are realistic, trompe l’oeil depictions of ordinary objects, everyday stuff that we all encounter but maybe ignore or don’t think about or look at too closely…. feathers, a bundle of sticks, old books, satsuma peels, bits of string, worms, discarded banana skins, grass. Simple stuff. They’re usually made of carved and painted wood, but I also use other materials such as marble or, more recently, plywood and even chopsticks and barbecue skewers. I use whatever allows me to achieve the most effective results. There are no rules.
“My work is like a diary of objects. They are mementos or souvenirs that often relate to incidents or events in my life. Not necessarily important moments, better to say memorable. Like the time I slipped upon a banana skin as I was rushing along the road. Out of everyone, the Gods of Comedy chose me to be the fool that experienced the truth behind an eternal trope of slapstick. On the other hand, I carved a little marble memorial for my dad that depicts his wristwatch that’s been sitting around in my studio for a few years….
“And so, it’s this breadth of feeling – some humour combined with seriousness – that I try to reflect in my work and why I chose the title Levity and Gravity for the exhibition. It’s also a title that’s quite literal because some sculptures are suspended or hovering while others are resting upon the ground as if they have fallen.
“My sculpture relates closely to the tradition and themes of still-life painting, but it doesn’t matter if people don’t notice this. Basically, whatever I make has been an excuse for me to look at and think about something intently, almost like meditation. My thoughts and memories are represented by the things that I make. People seem to enjoy that some of these objects are depicted larger than life-size, occasionally to an absurd degree, but I am simply trying to reflect an idea that I have: the closer we look, the smaller we become.”
Russell added: “As a child, I always wanted to be an artist – once I realised that I couldn’t become a footballer – but I had no idea why or even how to go about it. And if your dad’s a builder and decorator and no one you have ever met is an artist you wonder ‘How can I make a living doing that?’ So I ended up following the route of commercial art and in 1985 I completed a degree in illustration at Brighton School of Art.”