Tony Cragg is a Turner Prize-winning British sculptor, best known for testing the limits of traditional mediums and experimenting with unconventional materials such as plastic, fiberglass, bronze and Kevlar.
Tony Cragg art is celebrated around the world
During a nearly fifty-year career, Tony Cragg has worked across various mediums, including sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, installations, and drawing.
His work has been exhibited in more than 700 exhibitions across Russia, Greece, Azerbaijan, China, The Netherlands, Spain and the UK, and his pieces feature in prestigious collections in the Musée du Louvre, the Scottish National Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Gallery in London.
A brief history of Tony Cragg
Tony Cragg was born in Liverpool in 1949, and showed a passionate interest in science and natural history from an early age. He worked as a laboratory technician at the Natural Rubber Producers Research Association before attending Gloucestershire College of Art and Design, Cheltenham College, and these experiences show in his vigorous approach to material.
He has also been bestowed with various academic titles. Cragg was awarded the Chevalier des Arts Lettres in 1992, elected a Royal Academician in 1994, made a CBE in 2003, and given key academic roles at Universities in Paris, Düsseldorf, Berlin and London.
Tony Cragg is recognised for constantly pushing the limits of relations between people and the material world. He points out that the words ‘material’ and ‘materia’ originate from the Latin word ‘mater’ – or mother. Like a mother, the material gives birth to the thought; the different properties of a material give rise to the idea, which produces the form.
His early works in particular present a taxonomical understanding of the world, and he has said he sees manmade objects as “fossilized keys to a past time which is our present.”
“When I’m involved in making sculpture, I’m looking for a system of belief or ethics in the material… I want that material to have a dynamic, to push and move and grow.”
Balloons of information
Tony Cragg began his career at a time when minimalist and conceptual art was developing rapidly, and he recognised the need to produce work that developed ‘an alphabet of sculpture’ from more conventional art materials and techniques.
“I see a material or an object as having a balloon of information around it”
In Cragg’s mind, sculpture represents a study of how material forms can affect our thoughts and emotions. Form and meaning are interdependent, causing a kind of chemical reaction. Any change in form changes the ‘balloon of information,” and conversely any change in materials also changes meaning and significance.
“The material finds itself in a new form and the sculptor finds himself with new content and a new meaning.”
A career in sculpture
Tony Cragg art began using found objects, discarded construction and household materials, and techniques such as stacking, splitting and crushing. From the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, he produced primary structures and representational reliefs on the floors and walls of galleries, systematically arranging individual fragments of mixed materials. When laid out in this manner, random objects came to portray forms recognisable from everyday life.
In the early 1980s, Cragg moved away from installation art, and began to closely examine the individual objects used as parts of his larger pieces, experimenting with the possibilities offered by a range of more permanent materials.
He then continued to develop two significant groups of work throughout the 1990s and up to the present day: the Early Forms and the Rational Beings.
The Early Forms explore the possibilities of sculpting familiar objects such as containers into unfamiliar forms, producing new emotional responses, relationships and meanings. In contrast, the Rational Beings explore the relationship between two apparently different aesthetic descriptions of the world; the formal mathematically-based constructions that work to build the most complicated and emotive organic forms.
Most recently, Cragg has been confronting notions of compression and expansion in his works, featuring distorted yet recognisable forms such as facial profiles. These works have an almost futuristic element, reminiscent of 3D printing or engineering.
Another new development in Cragg’s work is the creation of sculptures that can be exhibited outdoors. These works are fashioned from materials including metal, stone, wood and glass.
“I’m an absolute materialist, and for me material is exciting and ultimately sublime.”
Why buy Tony Cragg art at Maddox Gallery
We are delighted to show some of his work at Maddox Gallery. If you are looking to invest in Tony Cragg art for the home, or simply wish to learn more about the artist, please pay a visit to one of our galleries. Our expert Sotheby’s-trained art consultants would be happy to tell you more about the artist’s creative history, artistic reputation and potential future.