The new book from Tristan Manco, Big Art/Small Art, showcases forty-five international artists who are pushing the boundaries of scale to create works of staggering skill and audacity; the results intrigue, surprise, immerse, disorientate and inspire. Read on to find out how Tristan approached this exciting subject.
Where did the idea for the book originate?
‘There seems to be a universal fascination for art that is created both on a grand and or a miniature scale, from architecture to jewelry, from vast edifices to intimately precious objects. Remnants of temples and coins of ancient civilizations point to this collective need to shape a society through artefacts both big and small – to make a lasting mark. As the English romantic poet Shelley’s poem reminds us, ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
While I am in awe of what history has left behind – the exquisite grave goods left in Egyptian tombs or the Roman amphitheatres that still stand today – the idea behind this book is to explore how contemporary artists are using scale to make their equivalent mark today. I have been bowled over by the scale of artworks created in recent decades, from Jeff Koons’s Puppy at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to Richard Serra’s Corten steel sculptures in New York, not to mention the colossal structures and installations that regularly dominate Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. While it was not only their dimensions that made these works so exciting, the scale of the art was a memorable and important factor in the experience. This tendency towards large-scale work has grown exponentially in current times, influenced by a number of motives that are discussed in the book.’
How did you research/categorise the artists? Was it always obvious which category they fell into?
‘The research for Big Art/Small Art came as a by-product and a natural progression from my previous book, Raw + Material = Art: Found, Scavenged and Upcycled, in which I wanted to explore the relationship and creative approaches different artists had to materials – in particular those using low-cost and low-tech media. While exploring this topic I began to think more about scale and so my study widened to consider artists working with interesting materials but also applying them to works of extreme scales.
Since artists often work at different scales I sometimes had to concentrate on one aspect of their work in order to categorise them appropriately for the book. In some cases the category was not clear, for example artist Luke Jerram, who in his Glass Microbiology series creates glass sculptures modeled on microscopic viruses, the sculptures can be held roughly in two hands, but it terms of scale they are vastly scaled up models of microbes. He features in our ‘small’ chapter but equally could have been in the ‘big’ one.’
Did you discover many new artists in the process of creating the book?
‘I certainly did discover many artists, some of them very well known either worldwide or in their own country, others I would describe as up-and-coming. I was keen to eschew artists that would already be familiar to many people such as Anish Kapoor, Ai Weiwei or Christo and Jeanne-Claude etc, not only to keep things current but also to give readers the chance to discover new artists. Some of the artists such as Fujiko Nakaya, a Japanese artist who creates art with fog, could hardly be described as new as she reaches her 81st birthday this year!’
Do you have any personal favourites from the book?
‘I’m not sure I’m allowed favourites as the overall curator but I am inspired by the work and ethos of Russian artist Nikolay Polissky. Made with found natural materials such as wood, straw and twigs, he has created some fantastic and monumental sculptures that can perhaps be described as utopian, integrating principles of land art and art for social regeneration. Since 2000, most of his works have been created within the village of Nikola-Lenivets, in the Kaluga region, a four-hour drive from Moscow, and in co-authorship with the local villagers. This semi-abandoned village has been rejuvenated through art, turning it into a cultural centre with its own annual festival of landscape architecture, ‘Archstoyanie’, which has attracted further visitors.’
Why do you think it’s important to publish books like this?
‘As a writer my goal is always to inspire, and hopefully the outstanding material in Big Art / Small Art does just that. I’m fascinating by this subject since it’s both a fundamental element in art and also a unique way to uncover innovative artists from around the globe. A sense of scale is fundamental to the way we experience the world and an important consideration therefore in the work of artists.
From installations, environmental art, public art and art inspired by science there is an extraordinary wealth of ideas encapsulated in the book, which I hope will be a fantastic page-turner for readers. Whether you are a young artist keen to discover current movements or someone looking to the world of art for fresh approaches to architecture, design or experiential engagement, I would hope there is something there for everyone!’
Big Art / Small Art is available for £29.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.