Exhibitions & Projects

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Ode to a Tool: RBS Fellows Debate

28 January 2015

RBS Galleries, 108 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3RA

The RBS is proud to announce the first RBS Fellows debate, Ode to a Tool, on 28 January 2015 from 6:30 to 8:30pm. Three eminent RBS Fellows, Helaine Blumenfeld OBE FRBS, Bruce Gernand FRBS and Michael Petry FRBS, will introduce their most loved tools sparking a lively debate on the role of the hand, the digital and the skills of the master craftsman in the creation of contemporary sculpture chaired by Geoffrey Matthews, RBS Council Member and Secretary of the Chelsea Arts Club.

The vastly disparate styles and methodologies of these distinguished artists will illuminate the central theoretical discourse regarding the contributions of concept and craft to art. Refracted through the context of three contemporary art practices, surprising synergies and differences emerge in what will be a dynamic panel discussion. 

Helaine Blumenfeld’s fluid abstract forms in marble and bronze strive to ‘reach a place that is totally universal.’ Her hands are in touch with each piece through every stage of the sculpting process. Her ‘continual contact, definition and refinement allows the intention, emotion and vision of the model to be transmitted and expressed in the final work.’ Bruce Gernand works with the relation between the digital model he creates on the computer and the methods he uses to transfer this virtual information into physical forms including rapid prototyping (3D printing) as well as craft-based techniques that he has developed. As a result of this elaborate process, the inevitable ambiguity lends meaning to the sculpture and the ‘“digital signature” of the machine is juxtaposed with the features of hand and tool.’ Artist, writer and curator Michael Petry often engages master craftsmen to produce the components of his installations, working closely with the makers to achieve the desired results. Petry embraces the Duchampian element of chance inherent to this dynamic process and relationship.

About the Artists and Chair

Helaine Blumenfeld OBE FRBS

A former student of sculptor Ossip Zadkine, Helaine Blumenfeld has created more than 90 large scale sculptures for private and public clients across the globe including Lincoln Center (New York), Het Depot (Holland), The Lancasters (London), the University of Cambridge and the University of Leicester. Several highlights from her extensive exhibition history include a joint solo show with Henry Moore at Alex Rosenberg Gallery (New York 1985) and solo exhibitions at Bonino Gallery (New York 1976), Het Depot (Holland 2007), The Town Hall (Oslo 2010), Taking Risks at Bowman Sculpture (London 2010), Helaine Blumenfeld in Pietrasanta (2011), and Messenger of the Spirit at Salisbury Cathedral (2013). In 2007, she was the first woman to be awarded the prestigious ‘International Sculpture Prize: Pietrasanta and Versilia in the World.’
From 2004 to 2009 Blumenfeld served the RBS as Vice President. An advocate for sculpture, Blumenfeld has used her public profile to broaden access to and appreciation of the medium, initiating and organising regular exhibitions at the Harold Martin Botanical Gardens in Leicester and at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. In 2011, Blumenfeld was awarded an honorary OBE for services to the arts.

Bruce Gernand FRBS

After studying Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, Bruce Gernand went on to teach at Hull College of Arts, Central School of Art and Design, Syracuse University, and Rhode Island School of Design. Gernand served as subject leader in Sculpture at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design from 1997 to 2007 and Senior Research Fellow from 2007 to 2010. In 2010, Bruce received an AHRC award to produce the work of Coded Chimera: exploring relationships between sculptural form making and biological morphogenesis through computer modeling. This collaboration with the Natural History Museum and the Computer Lab, Cambridge University culminated in an exhibition in 2011 at the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge. Gernand has exhibited extensively around the world and his work can be found in numerous public and private collections including the Museum of the University of Dundee, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Contemporary Arts Society, Coopers and Lybrand, Osaka Foundation of Culture and the Cass Foundation.

Michael Petry FRBS

After studying at Rice University, Houston (BA) and London Guildhall University (MA), Michael Petry received his doctorate from Middlesex University. An artist, curator and director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) London, Petry also served as guest and curator at Futurecity and at the Kunstakademiet, Oslo, Research Fellow at the University of Wolverhampton and curator of the Royal Academy Schools Gallery. 

Petry has exhibited extensively across the globe. Several notable projects include Golden Rain for the On the Edge exhibition for Stavanger 2008 (European Capital of Culture), The Touch of the Oracle at the Palm Springs Museum (2010), and he was the first artist in residence at the Sir John Soane’s Museum (2010/11). As an author he has contributed significantly to key debates in contemporary art, publishing several books including Abstract Eroticism (1996), A Thing of Beauty is... (1997), The Art of Not Making: The New Artist Artisan Relationship (2012), and Nature Morte: Contemporary Artists reinvigorate the Still-Life tradition (2013).

Geoffrey Matthews

Geoffrey Matthews is a Council Member of the RBS and Secretary of the Chelsea Arts Club. Most of his career has been spent in not for profit administration and communications. At the National Gallery, Matthews was Managing Director of the publishing and retail company, and a member of the Gallery’s Management Committee. At the National Theatre he was Creative Director of the Inside Out Festival and continues to serve on the enterprises board. For the Royal Household he was Project Private Secretary for Princes William and Harry. For the Foreign Office he was Creative Director of a worldwide 2012 Olympics public diplomacy campaign.