Tony Cragg

° 1949

Born in Liverpool (), lives in Wuppertal ().

Anthony Cragg was born near Liverpool in 1949. His father was an electrical engineer, and partly owing to his influence the artist has always been fascinated by science and technology. At age 18 he starts work in a lab but, soon finding the job rather boring, he starts drawing and making objects. This was the first time in his life that he was busy with such expression. He finds it to his liking, and enrolls for a one-year’s art course. At the same time he takes on a part-time job in a foundry that made casts for electrical motors, sparking a compulsive interest in the idea of awakening the dynamic, living and growing nature of the material. After his basic arts training, Cragg continues at the Wimbledon School of Art, and follows this with a specialization course at the Royal College of Art – in total, seven years of study and training. In 1977 he accepted a position as docent at the Dusseldorf Art Academy, and takes up residence in Wuppertal. Since 1988 he has been a professor at the academy as well as its co-director. Cragg’s international breakthrough came in 1978, and ever since he has been an active exhibitor worldwide. He won the 1988 Turner Prize and represented his country at the 43rd Venice Biennale.

What interests me are the particular critical criteria that we establish with respect to objects that are made by man and with respect to his occupations.” - Tony Cragg

The oeuvre of Tony Cragg is outwardly very varied: his works display little in the way of formal similarities. Still, the sculptures arise out of a single substantive pursuit, closely tied up with the material. Cragg’s work addresses the relationship between people and their environment and, more particularly, with the objects and materials found there. Through his sculptures, the artist attempts to improve our relationship with our complex contemporary material milieu. He offers insight into and information about new materials and production processes and evolution theory. In this way, through his sculpture Cragg makes neglected information and hidden knowledge visible. For Tony Cragg, like with many artists from the 1970s (for example, Bill Woodrow and Richard Deacon), it is not the formal aspects of sculpture that are of essence, but rather its content and function. At the end of the Seventies and in the early Eighties, Cragg mainly uses found materials as the building blocks for his art. The basis for this on the one hand lies with his conviction that all materials are equal, and on the other with his fascination for the artificial material par excellence: plastic. Originally the objects were sorted, for example according to color, and later Cragg makes figurative forms of these found objects, laid out on the floor or stuck to the wall. In the mid-1980s, we see a shift in Cragg’s practice. He begins considering objects in terms of individual entities instead of as assembled bodies. Here, unprocessed materials gain ever more preference vis-à-vis recycled objects. Since 1986 Cragg also makes large, single sculptures in various materials like wood, bronze, glass, ceramics and polymers. Most of the motifs remain allied to Cragg’s central theme: here references include industrial products and mathematics.

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