Jack Eden – Axis at the Old Fire Station, Oxford

Oxford-based sculptor, Jack Eden, is at it again. Last March he exhibited at the little known (but quite wonderful) Turrill Sculpture Garden in Summertown (curiously located at the back of the library on South Parade). I wrote about his show there, but it didn’t get printed – see below).

Anyway, I’m writing this as he’s good, really good, and exhibiting again, this time an indoor exhibition, in the gallery at the Old Fire Station. The below work is called Imperfection Perfected. I haven’t seen the new work that he’s made for his current exhibition yet, but here’s a link to Jack’s blog with more info about the show, Axis, which continues until the 15th Feb – Jack’s Valentine’s gift to you! Get thee there!


Aperture by Jack Eden at the Turill Sculpture Garden

Early career artist, Jack Eden, encourages visitors to read between the lines, and take the time to see the world through someone else’s eyes in his exhibition of new works in the Turill Sculpture Garden in Summertown.

Situated off South Parade, behind the rows of dusty books in the Public Library, is a 100ft by 60ft walled garden. Twelve years ago local artist and curator Katherine Shock approached Oxfordshire County Council and proposed that the then empty, overgrown and uninviting space be transformed into an attractive garden for both library users and the general public to view temporary sculpture exhibitions by contemporary artists, or simply sit and soak up the peace of the tranquil setting. Since opening to the public the Turill Sculpture Garden has become increasingly ambitious in it’s programming, as evidenced in the current exhibition, Aperture, by Jack Eden that continues until Saturday 27th April 2013.

Aperture, Eden’s exhibition of elegant, white monoliths, is a new series of sculptures designed to draw focus to existing spaces, framing and magnifying the reality that the viewer sees through them. Unusually, it is the word through that is key in this sentence, as Eden presents the viewer with a series of works planted in flowerbeds and amongst shrubbery. Importantly, it is not the white, positive space that Eden is asking us to view, but the changing nature of the negative space, the viewfinder.

Giving a whole new meaning to through the looking glass Eden discreetly, and repeatedly presents the viewer with a comfortably familiar shape. Each ratio that the artist presents is 1.5:1; which, for those in the know, is derived from the 6 x 4” width to height ratio found in photography. However, the silent simplicity of the sculptures belies this mathematic precision. This work isn’t part of the trend for two-dimensional, geometric pop art (by which I mean populist, and slightly flakey with it – lacking conceptual substance, as opposed to Pop Art).

Jack Eden’s work focuses on the interplay between sculptural material and form, and how one affects the other physically, aesthetically, and conceptually, and there is a tangible physicality to the dimensions of the sculptures themselves that stand, as individuals, eyes (or eye) wide open, inviting the viewer to take a look through the aperture and find one’s own image. This open invitation invites a heightened sensitivity to the surroundings, making it particularly intriguing revising the works in different weather conditions, reviewing the world each time from a different perspective as nature dictates what one sees, again highlighting perception as an intrinsic element of the work; after all, this is sculpture, not photography, and as such one experiences so much more than a still image, but a very real experience.

Resonating with the work of the late great English sculptor Barbara Hepworth, and the contemporary American installation artist James Turrell, Eden’s work opens up a dialogue between photography, mathematics, and nature. Katherine Shock, Curator at the Turill Sculpture Garden expanded on this commenting on how Eden arrived at the dimensions of the individual sculptures,

“Aperture and image are governed by equations and formulae, which likewise rationalise and simplify the differing heights and widths of the sculptures.”

In the 1960s James Turrell introduced an art that was not an object but an experience in perception, and just as Turrell manipulates light rather than paint or sculptural material, so Eden manipulates views and focuses the viewer’s attention on something greater than the sum of the sculpture’s parts.

Aperture relies on the unique perspective of the viewer, creating a shared, yet very personal experience. For some visitors to this exhibition the works will frame the garden’s tranquil beauty, the Buddleia, the Portuguese laurel, or the ivy climbing up an ancient wall, for others the experience might be much more philosophical and reflective, whilst others may simply enjoy the positive space, the canvas, the way that the man-made objects contrast so starkly with their environment, and the play of light upon the even surfaces… and that’s what makes these works great, and prompted me to return to this exhibition for a second look – I encourage you to do the same.