Nick Hornby’s Brain-Bending Sculptures Twist History Into New Shapes

You can get a crash course in Nick Hornby’s work within the span of an hour-long London stroll. The artist has three everlasting sculptures put in throughout town, steel silhouettes that begin off acquainted however rework relying in your vantage level. In St. James, his conquering equestrian, modeled on Richard I, turns into an amorphous squiggle as you circle; whereas in Kensington, his tackle Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer turns summary; and a bust of Nefertiti doubles because the Albert Memorial.

Raising questions on energy and the function of the monument, the trio are a intelligent combo of craft and idea. They’re additionally feats of digital innovation. The equestrian, for instance, began out as a digital mannequin scripted in Python. It was then unrolled into particular person elements to be laser-cut from steel, then assembled by fabricators. “It was a lovely, seamless relationship between concept, digital processes, and mechanical fabrications—165 pieces manipulated into the six-and-a-half ton object,” says Hornby from his studio in northwest London. “But when people look at it, they don’t see that at all.”

“I like to think that one of the distinctive features of my work is its ambition to capture the imagination of anyone, not limited to the art world; to try to address complicated ideas in plain English. Anyone will recognize the trope of the man on the horse and will have a reaction to how I have manipulated it.”

White abstract sculpture with images of a human body overlaid in areas on a white pedestal in a white room

Resting Leaf (Joe) is from a set of autobiographical works created utilizing hydrographics—every resin sculpture is dipped right into a moist medium containing a picture switch.

Photograph: Benjamin Westoby

This form of technical-conceptual wizardry is Hornby’s calling card. Favoring the display over the sketchpad, he makes use of 3D modeling as the muse for summary sculptures that reference the art-historical canon and problem notions of authorship—contorted mashups of works by Hepworth, Brancusi, Rodin, and extra; the profile of Michelangelo’s David extruded to a single level, legible solely from above.

He began younger, creating life-size terracotta figures in class whereas his classmates labored over easier pots. “But then I went to art school, and it was like, I didn’t want to do pastiche of Rodin. I wanted to be part of the future. I wanted to be innovative,” he says. “So I jumped on technology.”

At the Slade School of Fine Art in London, the place he enrolled within the late Nineteen Nineties, Hornby thrived within the new. There had been forays into video; a semester on the Art Institute of Chicago, the place he joined the artist-hacker collective Radical Software/Critical Artware; and musical experiments with MAX MSP, the object-oriented programming language employed by Radiohead within the early 2000s. But it was solely after pursuing a grasp’s in his thirties that his profession took its present form.

“I actually had quite a radical sea change in my relationship to tech,” he says. “I got quite frustrated by people saying, ‘Wow, that’s really cool. How did you do it?’ because I find that question really boring. I’m much more interested in the question, ‘What does it mean?’” So, over the previous decade Hornby has eradicated “any form of human subjectivity,” he says. The wires and screens had been obscured, the tough edges erased with laser precision. All the higher to ask questions of substance slightly than course of.