Jonathan Owen, Untitled, 2017, 19th century marble bust with further carving. 55 x 56 x 31.5 cm. Private collection

Jonathan Owen purveys en electrical questioning of ideas of permanence and power – the attributes so often associated with the 18th and 19th century marble sculptures that are his favoured raw material. Like Cornelia Parker, he uses ‘found’ objects as a sculptural starting point and enjoys the inherent history of the original object. It offers a way of working that seems especially relevant in the present moment when the conversation around public monuments is being so vigorously re-phrased and reassessed. As Jon says in the short film published today to mark part 50 of The Unseen Masterpiece of the sculpture he has been working on most recently – “it was an object made to project a fixed, singular world view. My intervention is an attempt to subvert and puncture this familiar defunct rhetoric, to re-activate the object through transformation rather than destruction, to make a new proposition”.

This film documents the carving that was underway in his Edinburgh workshop before lockdown began and also introduces a new group of ‘eraser drawings’ that he has been working on at home over the past few months. Like his sculptures, this is essentially a reductive process, a kind of two-dimensional carving of old photos from books – working backwards from blacks through greys to white, gradually removing ink from the surface of the page. The first of these, made some years ago, concentrated on removing sculptures from their plinths, but his most recent series have focussed on images from the history of cinema, erasing the foreground figures of Hollywood stars, and reshaping them into inanimate details of the scenes they once inhabited.

Ingleby Gallery, 33 Barony Street, Edinburgh EH3 6NX
Opening times:Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the gallery is closed until further notice.


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