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Change the world

Event location: Bird Street Gallery, Nelson Mandela University

Event date and time: 25/06/2020 08:00:00


Expressive Dimensions

Michael Roderick Wedderburn’s work exemplifies how an artist’s individualistic style and character is expressed within automatic and intuitive art-making methods. Drawing inspiration from automatic drawing and action painting in order to express the self, transcending the picture plane. From flat to highly textured paintings, from figural to completely abstract sculpture, Wedderburn explores Automatism, a purely expressive methodology, from both a conventional and non-conventional standpoint. ‘Expressive dimensions’ is an exhibition of these explorations.

Conventional Automatism, in its artistic development, was mostly two dimensional in nature, confining it to the picture plane. The Automatist technique of abstract mark-making, in general, created the illusion of spatial symmetry and suggested a depth of form within a two dimensional format. Outside of the planar, Michael Roderick Wedderburn makes use of various structural systems and themes that provide the Automatist sculptor with a vehicle for the physical and illusory occupation of three-dimensional space, granting sculptural access to what was originally the purview of the draftsman or painter.

For Wedderburn, the exploration of Automatism over the past five years has been focused on painting and sculpture. Within this period, he has translated the sensation of Automatist painting and drawing methods, into building methods in sculpture. With an adherence to the expressive purity of Automatism when investigating its boundaries, the expressive assemblage of his works, laid the foundation for the construction of innovative three-dimensional Automatist style works that physically embody the expression of the artist.

This exhibition comprises of three main bodies of work. These are: the works of anatomical Automatism; the figures and the purely abstract. These bodies of work reflect a practice that involves studying both the conventional and unconventional aspects of expressive art-making. Wedderburn explains that his “work is an exploration of the mechanics behind expression, the differing bodies of work are interconnected, each work informs the other in some way, shape, or form”. To this end, on display is a wide variety of sculptural forms along with mixed medium paintings, all of which fall within the realm of expression.

 

Bodies of work

Within this exhibition there are three main bodies of work. These are: the works of anatomical Automatism; the figures; the purely abstract. These bodies of work reflect a practice that involves studying both the conventional and unconventional aspects of expressive art-making. Wedderburn explains that his “work is an exploration of the mechanics behind expression, the differing bodies of work are interconnected, each work informs the other in some way, shape, or form”. To this end, on display is a wide variety of sculptural forms along with mixed medium paintings, all of which fall within the realm of expression.

 

Anatomical Automatism

These works are the by-product of an aggressive working environment, a practice which involves expressing a life with Marfans syndrome. For Wedderburn his own anatomy is an overbearing shadow, a daily reminder of circumstantial restrictions and physical ailment caused by this illness. Awkwardly bent posture, off-set balance, inscrutable bodily forms and proportions, cuts and scars from medical procedures, are just a few of the over-whelming reminders of illness which aggravate his sensibilities. With a dire need to express his angst for this intimidating illness he exposes what plagues his daily contemplations and unconscious nature, and then attacks it to ensure a purely expressive means of manifesting his unconscious through painterly and sculptural form.     

The Figures

In the automatist style, the visible methods of construction are integral to the expressive nature of the work. Thus, Wedderburn explores systems of assemblage through the construction of figure sculptures. Essentially, the figures are characters, those which express a certain mood, or feeling, that resonates within him. Each figure begins with a desire to communicate a mood, or feeling, which intuitively directs how components are assembled. As a result these figures are more abstract than representational due to the nature of their construction. The figure is merely a vehicle to explore the world of assemblage and its role as part of expression.

The Abstract

The methods and themes employed in creating his purely abstract sculpture and paintings pay tribute to the jarring atmosphere of anatomical Automatism, and his experience with material manipulation and assemblage. Cutting, hacking, beating and breaking timber with experimental methods, combined with erratic systems of assemblage enhance the expressive characteristics of both structured and unstructured forms. These methods form the basis upon which a unique interpretation of Automatism succeeds in developing innovative form in both painting and sculpture. Ultimately, these works are propositions in representation that culminate in the expression of a unique visual language that is distinctly his own.

This purely expressive methodology allows for the development of innovative mark-making techniques in painting, as well as unique systems of assemblage and abstract forms in sculpture. His practice is a life-style and not merely a keen interest. He sustains and informs a prolific and productive practice through his formal training and intuitive drive and is suited to his goal of establishing an innovative artistic practice.

More about the artist:

Michael Roderick Wedderburn is an expressionist sculptor and painter focused on the exploration and development of conventional and non-conventional methods within Abstraction. In order to refine his own practice, he investigates how tools are used, how mediums react, and the influence of the studio environment. Wedderburn’s approach to abstraction is rooted in the principals of Automatism, a methodology automatic and intuitive in nature that enables him to create his work organically. In addition, Michael has gained a unique perspective on expressive art-making in leading a life with illness.

The medical condition he suffers from is referred to as Marfan Syndrome. It is a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue throughout the body. The disorder has many symptoms, some life threatening, but those that have direct impact on his art-making are: lens dislocation causing severe visual impairment and weak vision, and limb elongation causing bodily disproportion that weakens limb joints and enables irregular mobility. Essentially, Michael must work within the confines of what his body will allow. This may be perceived as restrictive, and it is correct to believe so, however, this is also what makes his methods and work unique.

Wedderburn received a distinction for his research dissertation and exhibition titled, Living in the Shadow of Death (2016) in which Anatomical automatism was established. For this methodology, he sought theory from Surrealist Automatists Joan Miro, Robertto Matta, Andre Masson and Abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock to develop his own rendition of Automatist abstraction. Since the completion of his Masters research, Michael has continued making art based on the principals of his methodology. Anatomical Automatism has proven to be a solid foundation for him as his works have consistently achieved placement as one of South Africa’s top one-hundred emerging artists in the Sasol new signatures art competitions every year from 2014-2019.

Currently Wedderburn works as a lecturing assistant / studio technician in Sculpture at the Nelson Mandela University, under head of sculpture, David Jones. Here Michael teaches the basic techniques and methods of sculpture to undergraduate students, which include tool making, machine and tool usage, woodwork, carving and mould-making basics. Additionally, he has also interned at Department of Visual Arts’ Bird Street Gallery and supervised public sculpture projects.