The dialogue between tradition and modernity in the works of Nic Fiddian-Green (b. 1963) has shaped landscapes across the world, from Hyde Park Corner to Umbria’s Castello Di Reschio. A graduate of the Chelsea College of Art, Fiddian-Green’s self-described “obsession” with the figure of the horse- from classical sculpture to the modern racecourse, evokes a range of artistic traditions, contained and balanced within monumental installations that exude a mystical calm. Vast bronze statues- created with the traditional ‘lost wax’ technique, in the artist’s Surrey studio- speak not only to early inspiration from the equine sculpture of the Parthenon, but to the displaced temporality of modernist and cubist sculpture. Fiddian-Green’s works create a powerful sense of both intimacy and awe, familiarity and unsettlement, inviting the viewer to participate in an almost spiritual encounter of time and identity.
It is not enough to say that Nic Fiddian Green is Britain's most accomplished and innovative equestrian sculptor. His huge bronze horses' heads at Hyde Park Corner and, most magnificently, on Trundle Hill above Goodwood, have literally elevated equestrian art to a new level. To encounter that astonishing bronze on Trundle Hill was to become part of a tableau in which the huge head's hooded eyes gazed away from the distant spire of Chichester Cathedral, as if the mythic battlefields of Troy.
The key artistic genome in virtually all of Nic's sculptures is the Selene Horse, which he encountered at the British Museum while a student at Chelsea College of Art. That marble, purloined by Lord Elgin from the Acropolis four hundred years before Christ, has continually provoked Nic, drawing him into ever deeper searches for an essence of form and line that is revelatory rather than simply a demonstration of virtuosity. Art, as Paul Klee said, does not reproduce what we see - it makes us see. This is what Nic's sculptures at Sladmore Contemporary attempt to do with such panache and sensitivity.
The various renditions of Horse at Water at Bruton Place express what Nic describes as "just the simple idea of the beauty of a horse". Except that it is not simple. These heads have a sentient, alert quality, as if they know we're watching them. They radiate the sense of a pause just before movement, which is not surprising: these heads seem almost to pour onto their plinths, or to be balletically au point. And yet they also radiate an aura of calm; anybody who has encountered the monumental Horse At Water at Hyde Park Corner has experienced something very like TS Eliot's "still point in a turning world."
The patina of these heads, in bronze or mixtures of bronze and lead, are fascinating proof that even the most distinct forms can be given quite different characters by the varying colours and textures of their surfaces. Colouration has been critical to the sculptor and, in these new pieces, he says he's been "pushing the threshold of what's possible." The surfaces were worked, abraded, heated, then treated with chemicals such as ferric nitrate, potassium polysulphide, and copper nitrate. The effects are extraordinary. Some heads carry the patina of polished mahogany, some of worn leather; others suggest dark stone or petrified ash.
What we experience most of all, though, is the work of Nic's hands. "I'm trying to get beyond the rim, as I put it," he explains. "I'm trying to get to the edge of form and line - to the mystery of it all." Such are the visions that Nic Fiddian Green's hands have searched for. And we are able to share with him what they have found in his exquisite bronzes, the same aura and vision can be experienced whether the work is 20 inches or 20 feet in height.
Jay Merrick, The Independent, London
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