Robert Jones: Discarded items shape sculptor’s latest exhibition

Crucible exhibition
Image caption,Pieces in the exhibition have been created using items which are no longer useful

By Catherine Nicoll

BBC News, Isle of Man

Items rescued from skips and redundant farm machinery have helped “steer” the creation of a new collection of sculptures.

Crucible draws on rural and industrial Manx scenes, using discarded items and off-cuts from the engineering industry.

Artist Robert Jones said it was the shapes of those differing pieces that helped him to fashion each new artwork.

“I actually quite enjoy having to use shapes and objects that I’ve found, that very much comes out in my work.”

Inspired by the¬†threat of the climate crisis, the exhibition has been hailed as a “warning cry” to value the Earth’s resources.

Robert Jones standing next to sculpture
Image caption,Robert Jones recently became a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors

Trained in stone and metalwork techniques, he said the physicality of sculpture is something that has always appealed to him, and early work on farms and as an apprentice joiner spurred that on.

“Ever since I was a small boy I’ve always liked making things, I was naturally drawn to making things with my fingers and my hands,” he said.

“And farm work, the joinery side and building sites, that’s physical, it’s not fingertips, it’s a whole body physical process.

“I find it very relaxing, I find that I can sort of hyper-focus on a piece of work, I can lose myself for 10 or 12 hours… everything else disappears, all those worries and day-to-day things, they leave you.

“So I think a lot of the inspiration for it is that it’s got to be big, it’s got to be physical.”

Crucible exhibition
Image caption,While many of the artworks are large in form, the collection features some smaller pieces

And, four years in the making, his latest exhibition has drawn praise from Jones’ mentor, internationally renowned sculptor Michael Sandle, who also spent his childhood on the Isle of Man.

Although he had admired the older man’s work for many years, Jones said the pair became friends through “sheer luck” after he was asked to do some maintenance and repair work on two pieces of public art by Sandle.

“Mike asked me to send images of my own work, which I duly did, and to my surprise he really liked it and was extremely encouraging from the get-go,” Jones said.

Michael Sandle in the exhibition gallery
Image caption,Michael Sandle said Jones’ ink drawings were a “massive breakthrough”

As well as steel sculptures, Jones’ latest exhibition sees him branch out into ink drawings for the first time, which is something Sandle described as a “massive breakthrough” and “very important”.

Sandle said: “You are drawing if you’re making a sculpture anyway, you’re drawing in real space‚Ķ but the thing is you can think quicker through drawing and it is where you work, all going through your head.”

He said although it was an “uphill struggle” for sculptors to be recognised and it was “doubly difficult being an artist on the Isle of Man”, Jones recently becoming a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors had given him contact with other artists, which was important because “you learn from other people”.

Crucible exhibition
Image caption,The exhibition feature ink drawings alongside the sculptures

“I’m convinced that now that Rob has made this fantastic breakthrough, the drawing has just exploded out of him, this is fantastic, he’s a different kind of artist now, he’s a much bigger sculptor,” Sandle said.

“I think there’s some wonderful light at the end of this tunnel and he’s going to get somewhere.”

Crucible, Sculptures and Drawings of Robert Jones MRSS is on display at the House of Manannan in Peel until 14 January.

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