Conceived through drawing, expressed initially in maquette, fixed in plaster and fully realised in bronze, the sculpture of Christopher Marvell is sparing in detail but fulsome in association. The solid, substantial, patinated human and animal subjects that constitute the larger part of his output manage to achieve an irresistible balance between humour and pathos, ugliness and beauty, strength and weakness, past and present, and art and craft. Bringing to mind elements of the works of Marini, Giacometti, Miro and Moore, Marvell’s broadly representational sculpture is often charmingly quirky without ever being diminished by its idiosyncrasy.
His works impose themselves as seemingly blunt facts, but on deeper reflection they initiate a subtle dialogue that cajoles us to contemplate not only the relationship between human and animal, but also between the human/animal archetype and the human/animal condition itself. Somehow, his animals do not contain individual character, but rather they suggest the character of their species as distilled through human convention and consciousness. His Sea Dog, Cat and Sheep, for example, do not remind one of, say, Fido, Felix or Flossie, they ask us to re-consider our conceptions of dog, cat and sheep in their own generic terms.
Whether realised as solitary figures, as arranged groups, or in juxtaposition with the man-made, Marvell’s sculpture – which appears as if formed of the very bones of the earth – also steers us into a reassessment of our conceptions both of the ‘nature of things’ and of the ‘things of nature’. The intense patination is essentially natural, and yet it is also the product of human judgement and human promotion. Whilst presenting itself as natural; rough, eroded and aged; devoid of ‘precious’ value, the aesthetic stipulation cannot prevent our understanding that it conceals bronze as we most often conceive it: man-made, shiny, ornamental and precious. This is sculpture that appears to be what it is, but nevertheless asks what it is to ‘appear to be’ anything.
Despite living and working primarily in the south east of England, Marvell spends a good deal of time at his home in St Ives, and draws inspiration from both Cornish history and the Cornish environment. This is clearly seen in his fishermen, seabirds, and iconic Penwith birds (which combine animal physicality with distinctly Celtic mythological overtones). This exhibition reveals an artist with confidence in his art form and medium, and a craftsman who relishes the challenge of the foundry.
Summer 2013 Marvell at Trebah
Christopher Marvell Sculpture Exhibition
Throughout July and August visitors will be able to interact with some site specific sculptures created by Christopher Marvell, entitled “Marvell at Trebah”. The modern contemporary works are inspired by Trebah’s unique environment. They will undoubtedly contain some of Christopher’s established repertoire of human and animal form, with a particular focus on a bird motif emblematic of his philosophical enquiry. Christopher works out of both Cambridge and St. Ives and has been established on the Cornish art scene for several years.