Robilant+Voena, in collaboration with Hannah Barry Gallery, are pleased to present Waypoints, a solo exhibition by James Balmforth, a contemporary British sculptor raised in Italy. The exhibition is on view at their Milan gallery from 26 October to 18 November 2016.
James Balmforth’s practice is remarkable in its celebration of process and implementation of a diverse range of materials, which he manipulates using highly sophisticated and innovative (sometimes verging on alchemical) techniques. The result is a body of work that questions our understandings of material reality and tests the physical limitations and chemical components of his chosen medium. His process could be considered constructive, but often his resulting sculpture serves to dismantle meaning, by placing technique and medium at the service of phenomenological – rather than purely formal – application. As Balmforth explains, “Materials are information bearing: they have inner constitutions with inbuilt tendencies; concealed aspects of their structure that dictate how they behave and interact. Tools and processes are information disclosing: their influence and application can reveal the structural properties, hidden qualities and embedded characteristics ... offering a glimpse into the inner life of materials.”
Keys to approaching the sculptures include an awareness of their confrontation of the organic and technological worlds, the interplay of biological and mechanical systems and a consideration of thresholds, margins of tolerance, moments of transformation and their resultant forms or outcomes. The blade of Gallium Dagger (2012), for example, is made of the metal gallium, which melts at body temperature, whereas the handle is made of brass and steel. As such, the materials challenge the dagger’s perceived purpose.
Several of Balmforth’s most recent sculptures are made using an instrument that has never been explored in sculptural production: a thermal lance. The tool was developed in post-industrial society as a heavy-duty demolition device to destroy largescale industrial equipment such as cranes, ships and bridges. The lance uses pure oxygen to burn steel tubes at extraordinarily high temperatures. By varying the heat and velocity of the reaction and adjusting the material composition of the fuel rods it is possible to achieve a broad range of effects on the material. Through his use of the lance, Balmforth can thereby challenge the limitations and potential of both the process and material.
In many ways, James Balmforth’s sculptural oeuvre could, to an extent, be seen to operate on the foundations set by art historical movements spanning from Mannerism, to the Baroque, process art and extending to Post-Minimalism. His practice celebrates process and a wide range of materials such as animal fat, steel, aluminium and cast iron.
This exhibition comprises a group of the artist’s new sculpture with two of his memorable early video works, Systems of Remembering and Forgetting (2007) and The Consumptive Sublime (2009). The installation seeks to highlight the associative potential of the artist’s work and the play of language across the medium and messages of his oeuvre.
The exhibition is curated by Carolyn Miner.