Bronze at the RA

Hailed as ah historic gathering of bronzes from across the ages, this exhibition is huge. Enigmatically lit, the galleries were busy, but the smell of the metal was unmistakable and I loved it.
The earlier works showing the human hand both in the making and in the years of handling were particularly interesting to me. They were often objects humble in size, yet they held their own against the relatively recent monumental works of the last few centuries.

I spent a long while looking at the Islamic lion, cast approx life size, standing, interested, it was made to actually roar. Internal chambers and vent holes around the body were designed to channel the wind and conjure the sound. I really wanted to blow on it. Hard.

Bronze being a nice workable metal, it is never wasted, but reused down the centuries, making the ancient works here all the more precious. I saw the collection as a testament to the power of the metal and the objects which have resisted reuse for so long. Protected by cultures and individuals, many pieces showed gleaming paws, snouts or feet, or marks of bumps and scrapes survived.

Works from the last few decades happily engaged more directly with the material itself, engaging with it’s role in artworks (Jasper Johns’ Beer Cans) and its qualities ( Roger Deacons’ Nails, and Anish Kapoors’ circle).

Bronze being an offspring of copper, I felt affection and gratitude to the roles it plays in our lives, from conducting info, channelling sound, to fixing thoughts and intentions in a malleable durable way.


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