One of the less remarked on pleasures of a critic’s life is to witness significant advances made by an artist who interests him.

Sculpture has always tended to be the poor relation in the visual arts in Australia so the steady emergence of the strong and individualistic sculptural voice of Andrew Logan is especially welcome.

Much of my early career was spent in Britain in West Cornwall where the slightly stultifying atmosphere of modernist ‘purism’ once held sway.
In consequence, much of the sculpture I knew at first hand was inclined to be very rigidly controlled in terms of finish and form.

While much of it claimed to be inspired by human emotion or landscape, it often seemed so refined that such links were far from obvious. More than anything it seemed architectural: the quintessence, in fact, of abstract form.
In Britain sculpture in those days was dominated by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. The subsequent, inevitable wave of reaction to their work by younger artists tended, in turn, to be edgy and anxious in nature. Strong sideways glances were thrown towards existentialism and Giacometti. In short, any kind of sculptural joy or exuberance was in very short supply.

Perhaps the foregoing goes some way to explaining why I find the recent sculpture made by Andrew Logan heartening and refreshing. As the artist himself says: “In sculpture I respond to the life force I feel coming from everything around me, even from dead things...”

Probably in consequence, the dynamic forces of Andrew Logan’s work tend to thrust outward rather than inward. But his, like the perennial problem of all sculptors, is to invent telling 3-dimensional equivalents for what are essentially poetic feelings and ideas.

Andrew Logan’s present show Riverglyphs at Richard Martin in Sydney is basically a demonstration of the sculptor’s recent solutions to an age-old dilemma.
His oddly organic, casual-seeming and sometimes wildly lyrical reliefs in cast aluminium are essentially drawings made in more tangible form. These are produced by the time-honoured means of sand-casting and are currently flat on their ‘unseen’ side. But one can easily see here a future development of such works into screens.
To the sculptor’s credit, he undertook a 4-year apprenticeship in a foundry when in his late thirties. His consequent technical confidence has also generated expressive benefits because he alone is responsible now for the final form and finish of his work. Such responsibility no longer changes hands at the foundry door.

The current exhibition of 22 works also contains works in bronze which generally mark a transition from more svelte and sinuous earlier works towards the present informal exuberance.

One such work I like especially – Bark River – features deeply fissured bronze with black and scarlet indentations which remind me slightly of decorated wooden objects I remember from elsewhere, possibly from Russia. This piece, like his other ‘monoliths,’ is exotic yet notably controlled.

Bronze is a historic tool of the sculptor and Logan duly treats it with a respect he does not necessarily reserve for the more modern medium of aluminium.
His castings in the latter are predominantly sensuous, playful and humorous, at times running away from the sculptor like vehicles with no brakes.

In a work such as Ganga Winds, which relates to the sensuality of a traditional water culture, the sculptor unleashes an extraordinary force of feeling. This had its origins in the months he spent exploring the great river systems of India and their associated rituals of bathing and cleansing.
This, Black Crow Country and Spider River, which seemed more cuttlefish than arachnid, demonstrate and already impressive and still growing range of sculptural confidence.

Because the artist lives and works in America we are lucky to see his work in Australia, however briefly. In my own case, it is for the first time in 7 years.


Giles Auty was former art critic of the The Spectator ( 1984-1995) and The Australian (1995-2001). He also contributed regularly to Apollo and other leading international art magazines. In 1996 he was named by British historian Paul Johnson as “one of only 4 outstanding British art critics of the past 40 years”.