Jeremy Thomas Breathes Life (and Air) Into Steel

“To me, working in material, it’s a back-and-forth between the artist says this, the material says that,” says sculptor Jeremy Thomas. His inflated steel sculptures—which visually and conceptually couldn’t be further from Koons’s balloons—are playful entities of curiosity, process, and volume, that are as at home in a white cube gallery as in a grassy field. Thomas prefers that they be viewed as objects; “I really enjoy them on the floor, off the pedestal; it definitely changes the way the viewer reacts with the piece,” he explains in a gorgeous video that follows him through his process. “There’s not a top and a bottom; there’s not a side that’s more dominant than the other; they’re a complete object on all sides; you can roll them over and they have just as much interest to them.”

An ongoing dialogue between material, form, and the artist’s hand reverberates within each hollow form. To create his works, Thomas employs a process that is better known among blacksmiths than artists. Beginning with flat sheets of steel he cuts out shapes that are geometric iterations of circles and bends them so they can be welded together to create large hollow forms. Thomas puts each piece into a large forge that’s heated to 2000 degrees; as the steel becomes malleable like clay, he injects air into the forms, which introduces an element of spontaneity, and according to the artist, is where the real fun begins. “I know a certain form is going to create a certain wrinkle but I don’t know exactly where that wrinkle’s going to occur along that line,” he explains. This element of chance ensures each work is unique; each has its own swells, divots, and folds. Finishing off the works with raw oxidized surfaces or glossy layers of richly hued acrylics, Thomas’s process is complete: the steel loses its weight and the works are spirited objects of levity. While Thomas admits he won’t always work this way, for the time being he says, “I just keep inflating until I just can’t come up with any more ideas to inflate.”

Explore more artists from Bentley Gallery.

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