Liz Sullivan - 'Presence of Absence'

Wednesday 26 June - Sunday 21 July 2019


I’ve always admired Classical sculpture, its strength and perfection. The human form has evolved as integral part of my work. This was confirmed recently after a trip to Europe where I came to see another vital aspect of Neoclassical sculpture and painting: the contradiction of human power and frailty. I considered this for some time and decided that these aspects are common to all people, past and present. Liz Sullivan 2019.

For artist Liz Sullivan, there is a material form that exists in the present moment. It is a material that rises slowly as if to cling to a human body and which, in the true light of day, is invisible. It does not exist: it is a hollow into which thoughts and feelings come into being and preside for a few moment’s consideration, so as to give the artist and those who come to view her sculptures time to contemplate the artistic contradiction and relationship between subject and object. In this group of sculptures, objects rely on a counterpart of emptiness to complete their subject: that subject being several key figures in Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael)’s great masterpiece, The School of Athens.

It is a vast artwork that has been described, interpreted, reinterpreted, mused over, lauded and criticised by many learned people. For numerous artists who look to find reference and inspiration from which to build a new body of artworks, interpreting or reinterpreting this monumental fresco would be a daunting task to say the least. Not so for Liz Sullivan, who, from her love of Classical and Neoclassical sculpture, has taken a particular aspect of the fresco (that being the dress of its key subjects) and represented it in sculptural form...

Liz Sullivan has created a body of new sculptures that ask us to reconsider and take a fresh view of the sculptural form in a way that pays homage to its artistic heritage and all other aspects of its physicality. The sculptor Constantin Brancusi is said to have been one of the first sculptors of the Modern art era to take freestanding sculpture off the pedestal: that he devised a way of including the sculpture’s plinth as an integral part of the object’s aesthetic. He did this by carving many of the sculpture’s shapes and angles into the base upon which it stood. His works were (and still are) considered to have resolved the issue of how a contemporary freestanding sculpture could and should meet the floor. It is, therefore, a joy to see an artist like Liz Sullivan resolve what many artists consider to be one of the hardest aesthetic aspects of freestanding sculpture with such consummate ease. Her wish that her sculptures appear to defy gravity has certainly come true.

(Excerpt from the Liz Sullivan catalogue essay by artist David Glyn Davies).