About Arne Jones
Articles by Ulf Linde, member of Royal Swedish Academy
Artist Arne Jones 1914-1976
Professor at the Royal Swedish College of Art 1961-1971. Represented Sweden at the Biennale in Venice 1968.
Arne Jones was among the group of artists who after the war, in 1945, presented a new and ’concrete’ programme of action for art, with a desire to carry art out into a public environment. He has since continued to develop his sculptures from a pure base form, that can be built up and varied in movements and figurations. The latter are often based on a poetical classicism, a desire to combine contemporary materials with a classical theme.
ABSTRACT AND CONCRETE
After the war, however, abstract art was able to establish itself. This occurred at an exhibition called `Young art’ at the Colour and Form gallery in the spring of 1947, where a new generation of painters took the art concret of the Stockholm exhibition as their starting point. The geometrically oriented abstractions dominating the style gave rise to the Swedish term konkretism, which despite the linguistic paradox is categorized as abstract art. Lennart Rodhe (b. 1916) is the school’s designer, Lage Lindell (1920-1980) is its figurative narrator, Karl Axel Pehrson (b. 1921) is closest to nature and Olle Bonniér (b. 1925) is its most dynamic figure.
Arne Jones (1914-1976), the sculptor, is considered to belong to this circle. His art includes both architecture, design and visual dynamics. On the basis of the year of their debut, these artists became known as `the men of 1947′ (even though the female artist Randi Fisher contributed to `Young art’). The form is the focus of attention here, not the motif. And the whole surface of the work forms a single composition, sometimes with scientific, sometimes with musical parallels. In the 1950s, a number of these artists came to make significant contributions to public art. The new architecture of the `people’s home’ welfare state (folkhemmet) that was in the process of construction—with Sven Markelius’s suburb of Vällingby, officially opened in 1954, as its most typical expression—in many ways provides a self-evident context. In time they would come to expand their range of expression, and often enough nature sneaks its way into Swedish concretism by the back door. Olle Baertling (1911-1981) and Erik H. Olson (1909-1995) are counted among the stricter exponents of the genre. KG Nilson (b. 1942) has more recently carried on the tradition. Here too the tension between geometrical and organic form is evident.
Two articles by Ulf Linde, member of Royal Swedish Academy
Arne Jones’ sculpture ”Nova” describes a sudden ignition, an expansion or explosion. This gasifying gesture, however, emerges from its opposite: a simple compact rod, rectangular in shape, multiplied into something resembling a log jam. The whole thing balances on a single rod, about to be knocked away by the imaginary pressure.
The first title of this sculpture was ”transtruction” ‑ an unstable state between construction and destruction. The two phases can be clearly seen in the sculpture; in one part the rods seem to be splitting up, beating against each other, breaking to pieces. At the other end of the sculpture they collect together until they are almost parallel, until they begin to point in the same direction.
I can sense what sort of sensibility Jones set in motion when creating his sculpture: the object, must have been to put together a series of rods in such a way’ that he could experience the exact opposite of what he was doing ‑ namely that the rods were flying apart.
The actual rods are naturally only a means of portraying a dreamed‑of energy. Much as iron filings are a way of visualizing or exemplifying magnetic energy. And in fact the energy in ”Nova” is as invisible as magnetism. I recognize the sculpture’s gesture from the movements of my own mind ‑ this is how a whim, an idea detonates. The same case, the same sudden take‑off from the ground. (The word ”ground” is naturally meant here as an exemplification of something that is invisible; ”the gravel of consciousness”.)
(Dagens Nyheter, 24.6 1965)
The elements of sculpture
Henri Lauren’s’ earliest extant works are dated 1915. According to the artist himself, these sculptures ‑ constructions of simple forms in wood ‑were inspired by Braque, whom be got to know as early as in 1911. He regarded himself as Braque’s pupil.
By 1915, the heroic age of Cubism was over. Laurens was thus no rebel ‑ be was rather a follower‑up, a steward of the inheritance from Cubism. His work developed quietly and calmly. We find no sudden departures, no sacrifice of previous gains for some new and breathtaking discovery. He was rather a Classicist, not only because be always sought clarity and simplicity, but also because be never questioned the method be bad once adopted.
This method is sometimes called the synthetic. (The term was coined by Juan Gris.) Lauren’s’ sculptures were composed of simple forms, simple volumes, which meant nothing in themselves ‑ but which acquired a meaning from the ultimate whole. There was nothing incomprehensible in this; a couple of shirt buttons do not ”mean” anything ‑ but sewn onto the face of a rag doll they mean eyes. They actually look. In the same way, a cylinder can in a work by Lauren’s become an Arm, a trunk, a thigh.
The simple stereometric order we find in his early works is not, in other words, intended to reproduce any basic forms in nature. It was never a question for Lauren’s of reducing something coincidental to a concealed order beyond the coincidences. He did not work in this way. He was more like a mason, joining element to element in his works, building them.
This constructive aspect is clearly noticeable in some of his terra cottas. Each individual form is so definitely defined against the others that we get the feeling his sculptures can be taken to pieces. The elements seem stacked, or wedged into each other ‑ one part supports another, each incline is balanced by a counter‑weight etc. It is like an architecture in stone. And perhaps it is important that Lauren’s in his youth worked as a cutter of ornamentation for architects; when be set up his capitals in those days be was forced to respect the laws of static’s ‑ otherwise they would not have stayed in place. Later in life,. be was always to work in the same way. He had static’s in his blood.
Even so, his sculpture is by no means abstract. It reproduces human bodies, delineates them. Thanks to the carefully determined balance of the ”building”, his bodies seem always to be at rest; not a fibre in their limbs is taut ‑ and this probably explains the light, lyrical tone we find in all his works. His figures resemble archaic sculptures; they are compact and light at the same time.
He seems to have been greatly concerned to preserve this tone. This we can see from the almost white clay be used in his sculptures.
Lauren’s ”synthetic method undoubtedly played a major role in the development of two Swedish sculptors ‑ Arne Jones and Bror Marklund. They have applied what they learned from him in very different ways. In front of Jones’ sculptures, we are immediately struck by how the sculptures are ”built”. And in a text Hans Eklund has described with praise worthy empathy the nature of this architecture; he has shown that Jones’ understanding of the bearing and the borne can be traced back to a familiarity with the wood. Jones’ sculptures unlike those of Lauren’s ‑ seem only rarely to have been conceived as masonry. They have their analogies instead in timber constructions: in log farms, timbered roofs, bell towers or the ”Gothic” we encounter in the ribs and skins of boats. His forms have bad the direction of the wood ‑ and be has treated them as if they were logs, laths and chips.
This well‑balanced architecture, however, this construction at rest, contains also its own opposite. Jones’ objects can be experienced as suddenly frozen movements ‑ as if their mass bad been stopped in its flight from one position to another. At his latest exhibition,‑these ”gestures” can be traced only in a few cases to the human body. The majority belong to other fields of nature ‑the water breaking against a stone, the stretching out towards the periphery in an agglomeration of rotating matter, smoke lifting towards the sky, the pressure from an explosion.
And vet it would be wrong to take these gestures as solely mechanical. We can see them as metaphors of the gestures we have inside us. Would not an explosion be a better expression of anger than a fist beating on the table? (With different bodies, we would have different gestures . . .)
A sculpture by Jones thus presents itself in two ways ‑ as architecture, and as gesture, expression. In the one case we have a concrete gambit against the force of gravity, in the other case an imaginary ‑and with this we have indicated also the factor that gives these sculptures their unity: the perpendicular.
Ever since ”Man’s bridges” and Cathedral”, Jones has been working with this unit. But be has never embodied it with such simple means as at his latest exhibition. Not one of the sculptures shown is modelled or hewn ‑ they are all conglomerations of extremely simple and anonymous elements. In many cases be has worked with metal rods sawn up into different standard lengths ‑bits of 3, 5, 8 and 13 cm, for instance ‑ and then soldered them together. In this way, he has eliminated the traces of his own hand. Manual sensitivity no longer means anything; everything is dependent on measurement, weight, movement a visual sensitivity.
If the word arbitrary is taken to mean ”after one’s own taste” then Jones’ new way of working is a sharp denial of arbitrariness, of taste. His arbitrariness involves rather a sort of indifference that precedes the work. (The bits have been sawn up before he knows what he wants to do with them, and all the bits must be included in the work ‑ in this situation it makes no difference how many they are, or how long.)
Jones has chosen, quite simply, to avoid the situations of choice that lead to aestheticism. And his latest work has achieved this severity; it is the constructive idea and the movement that speak ‑ not taste. It is above all the purity, the clarity, that makes his exhibition so impressive.
What distinguishes Bror Marklund’s art from that of Arne Jones can best be seen in their respective attitudes to the elements of form.
Marklund’s exhibition relates to a single sculpture ‑ ”Figure in a storm”, created for Trelleborgs Ångfartygs AB and erected in Trelleborg.
Marklund himself has described the experience that gave him the idea for this sculpture: ’1 have seen a man walking along the beach against a very strong wind. He seemed to be in a hurry, but was progressing only with laboriously elastic movements. He went close by where I was standing. He was VAST”.
The primary thing was thus an experience of movement ‑ the next thing the world of forms in which this movement was to be recreated. The entire exhibition can be seen as a search for such a world of forms.
One of the first sketches consists of a collection of ”abstract blocks, leaning against an imaginary wind: a leaning architecture of ashlars. Another sketch shows a man. The form is here realistic, but softly simplified ‑ egg‑like. The project veered between different alternatives ‑ between one figure and many figures, between the sculpture as a single form and as an agglomeration of a hundred forms, between soft forms and hard, angular forms. ”At least ban the monotony of the manual approach,” says a note in Marklund’s sketch block. He has undoubtedly practised as he preached.
This is particularly clear in the collages that were stages of the preliminary work. He has cut out bits of illustrated magazines, bits that were of value to him above all as textures ‑ an agglomeration of round forms in a flock of sheep, the streakiness of bark and lava formations, the flowing movement of folded cloth etc. The characters of the forms shift continuously ‑ only one thing remains constant the whole time, the giant, pathetically leaning gesture.
Marklund’s overshadowing problem has thus been the choice of elements ‑ exactly the problem on which Jones turned his back!
There is perhaps an unrest in this choice, an overflowing vitality ‑ but also an exultation that comes close to anguish ‑ the underlying murmur of yes and no is perhaps our most vivid experience of Marklund’s whole exhibition.
The method of synthetic Cubism ‑ the composition of parts without identity into a whole that gives birth to identities, Lauren’s’ method or Picasso’s ‑ inevitably leads to a critical situation. When everything can be used as elements in a picture, the choice threatens to become arbitrary a matter of taste, a personal idiosyncrasy.
Both Marklund and Jones have worked on the difficulties arising in this situation. Unlike Marklund, Jones has refused to accept the actual nature of the difficulties. He has abandoned the whole problem ‑ he has rendered unto chance the things that belong to it, to be able to act afresh on a new plane.
(Dagens Nyheter, April 16th, 1964)
Arne Jones and the two cultures
Arne Jones’ entry ”Human building”, if it had been erected, Would have been a 38 meter high sculpture of aluminum. The work consists of two figures standing against each other, the curved surfaces cut into each other and enfold each other in the most ingenious way. Light and air play through them and around them. The whole work is fascinating, and aesthetically very attractive. To use a simple and adequate expression, his entry is beautiful.
But Jones’ work is much more than just this, as we can see from a visit to the Galerie Burén. Jones is there exhibiting just now a sensational collection of his latest works, including ”Human building III”.
At this gallery, anyone can see for himself that Jones’ work possesses qualities far beyond the aesthetic in the more limited sense. Jones has made a contribution to the cultural debate. His contribution is at the highest level, and concerns a supremely topical and urgent subject. ”Human building’ treats of the relationships between ”primary” and ”secondary” qualities. It relates, if we like, to the two cultures, but we should add in the name of justice that Jones goes deeper and reaches further than Sir Charles ever did in his famous lecture.
What Jones does is force us to adopt an attitude to the problem of primary and secondary qualities, their internal relationships and relative degree of urgency to us human beings. Also, he hints at a solution, a synthesis, which seems to me extremely promising.
The unfortunate distinction between primary and secondary qualities was introduced over 300 years ago by Galileo. In an in itself justified opposition to his predecessors’ arbitrary classifications and system constructions, Galileo maintained that a truly scientific description of reality can contain only references to form and movement ‑ mathematically analyzable properties. These properties, Galileo called primary. The rest, such as ”heat and color” were secondary qualities. The latter were only a sort of by‑products of the reciprocal action between our sense organs and the world around us. They therefore existed only in our conceptual world, not in our environment as such. Such humanly colored attributes therefore have no place in a strictly scientific theory.
”When I form a concept of a body or a material substance, l feel obliged to assume that it is staked out and limited by a form of this or that kind, that it is large or small in comparison with other bodies, that it has this position (or another), at this time (or another), that it is either in motion or at rest, either in contact with another body or not … It is impossible for me, however l stretch my imagination, to conceive of a body without these properties. But that it should be white or red, bitter or sweet, noisy or silent, sweet‑smelling or ill‑smelling ‑ I feel in no way constrained to assume that it must possess any of these characteristics. On the contrary, if the organs of sense bad not been able to distinguish these properties, then neither reason nor fantasy alone would probably have come upon such ideas.
I conclude from this that taste, odor. colors etc. regarded as properties in the object are but names: their true place is rather in the recipient body (in the observer) ‑ so that if all living things were eliminated, these properties would vanish and be destroyed.”
Democritus held exactly the same view 2000 years previously: We say sweet, we say bitter, we say hot, we say cold ‑ but in reality there exists only atoms and empty space.”
But where are we to draw the boundary between the primary and secondary qualities? The extreme rationalist Descartes excluded only two fields from scientific research: God and the human soul. Everything else, Descartes considered, should be capable of scientific explanation.
These disputes as to the boundaries played no major role as long as physicists were content to busy themselves with planetary orbits and oscillating pendulums. They were, after all, extremely peripheral and indifferent matters. Everything really essential lay on the right side of the boundary, out of reach of these slightly comic commanders of the modest troops of mathematical philosophy. Scornfully and self‑consciously, they spoke of these narrow‑sighted philosophers who ”reduced the elephant to a point with the mass m”.
Today, however, we are no longer so certain of ourselves. Continuos adjustments have been made in the boundary between primary and secondary. The tendency is somewhat disturbing. In the age of nuclear weapons and space rockets, the natural sciences can no longer be neglected. The point with the mass m bas been transformed to the relationship E=mc2, and it is probably not comical. It is something that concerns us all.
But things are worse than this: we have gone further than Descartes in our mathematical and rational demands. Linnaeus admittedly counted his stamina and pistils, but this was for the sake of svstematology . He classified his plants in genera and families in a true Aristotelian spirit. There are colors. smells and tastes in Linnaeus’ flora. But today’s microbiologists are solving the genetic code, reducing man’s ideas to genes and DNA molecules. The psychologists are applying with disturbing success the new science of cybernetics, which quantifies the memory in bits and describes the functions of mental life in the language of mathematics.
Man is constructing machines which seem to fill all the requirements made by the definition of the concept ”life‑‑‑. They move, they learn from their mistakes, they communicate with each other, they can actually propagate. And yet, somewhere, something is lacking. Something is lacking that we seem to be unable to express in words, probably because we should be forced, if we tried, to do it with hare language. the mathematical and logical language, and we would thus already be on the wrong side of the boundary. Yet one thing we know the whole time: mechanics and mathematics can never contain the entire truth of the reality we experience.
But what has Arne Jones got to do with Galileo, Descartes, nuclear physics. microbiology and cybernetics? A great deal. It does not need all that much imagination to see in Jones’ figure the silhouette of a human torso. Jones proves, experimentally one is tempted to say, that the perception, the experience. is not determined by the material. He chose for his entry aluminum, a modern metal which was shown to the general public for the first time at the World Fair in Paris 1889 (and which was then more expensive than gold). But he reaches exactly the same effect with wood and with bronze. Nor do the details in his whole play any decisive role. It appears. that the units which build up the figure could as well be I‑girders of aluminum as wooden blocks with square cross sections. Jones accentuates this subordination and irrelevance of the material by building up his sculpture in identical units. materials that can be bought on the metal goods market, girders of exactly the same kind as those forming the frames of the skyscrapers around Sergels Torg. In his entry, on a small scale, he has used model girders, but also blocks from the nearest wood merchants. Note that all these units are identically alike. Like the ultimate molecular and atomic components of the human body.
Also, these units stand in a very simple relationship to each other. The lowest girders form an angle of 90 degrees. The next pair up are placed against each other at a slightly wider angle. This slight difference in angle then re‑occurs regularly, it is added from layer to layer so that the angle between the units steadily increases, passes 180′ (at the shoulder section) and exceeds this value, so that the silhouette tapers off towards the top.
We see a man: there is no doubt about this, even if the figure is built up of mutually exchangeable units of arbitrary material, put together according‑to an embarrassingly simple geometrical principle.
But now comes the dramatic thing. If we turn the figure upside down, it shows instead a woman’s torso! (The reader can easily convince himself of this fact by turning the photo upside down.) Exactly the same figure as previously showed a man, now portrays a woman.
Can equality between the sexes be carried further’? Can the difference in our reaction to man and woman be illustrated in a more dramatic manner?
What Jones shows is that even if the figures can be unambiguously defined in primary properties, mathematically measurable relationships such as length breadth, height and internal positions, the ”soul” of reality, its secondary properties, still cannot be captured in these mathematical formulae. This transcendental something, the ”soul”, docs not exist in the work as such, which consists exclusively of exchangeable units in a simple geometrical relationship to each other. In this, Galileo was right.
But this ‑‑‑something” is there even so, and it is precisely this that we find important. It is not in the figure, but in the spectator himself, because he is a person. We react differently to ”him” and ”her”, in spite of the fact that be and she prove to have exactly identical primary properties.
Jones’ entry consists of two such figures, she and he, set against each other. This, in my opinion, is a stroke of genius. What do we mean by art? Why is something ”beautiful”? Is it not because it expresses something that we would like to have said, but cannot properly formulate? Jones has found an expression of what we all feel. It is above all for this reason that his sculpture is beautiful. It is a synthesis, a fusion of primary and secondary, a bridge between the two cultures.
Tor Ragnar Gerholm
Professor in Physics at Stockholm University
(Dagens Nyheter. June 24th, 1964)
Concretion with a human touch
(Some principles of form and shape in the art of Arne Jones) by Gunnar Berefelt
where the air meets
my stone skin
and there is a great unrest
where form slips stealthily
from geometry to living
volume and attacks
like an explosion
where the light meets
with resigned politeness
in the eye’s embrace
Arne Jones’ poem ”The torso’s monologue” is to some extent a poetical paraphrase of his intentions as an artist: the development of forms in movement, the interplay of light and space with the plastic elements.
Another statement he has made illustrates his work from the standpoint of the onlooker: ”See and perhaps grasp with the eye”. The essential thing in the work of art is its purely visual properties; literary references or symbolic illusions beyond the visible forms are artistic ballast of no value. The word ”grasp” is important. It would seem to mean both ”experience with the senses of vision and touch” and at the same time ”understand” not a symbolic language of forms, but a directly observable form‑action.
Let us consider two themes, the tectonic (idea of building) and the dynamic (idea of movement). The former develops a plasticity which is based entirely on static principles and which forms a sort of system of co‑ordinates with the origo line of earth as represented by the foundation on which the sculpture rests. A recognition of the law of gravity is a necessary condition to the theme. The theme of movements, on the other hand, starts from a suggested impermanence on the part of the forms, from a rhythmic development and repetition of definite motifs. This reveals a tendency towards liberation from dependence on gravity, a tendency reflected, for instance, in the forms’ independent play of balance around their own center.
We have seen how the forms, by abstraction from the human figure, and by virtue of their special organization, suggest a rotating movement. They form an analogy, which works like this. We know from experience, how bodies behave in certain situations. We know that objects connected by a wire with a rotating axis themselves describe a circular orbit with the axis as its center. Or to take a common example, if one spins violently round then one’s arms involuntarily rise to a right angle from the body, and the weight seems to be concentrated to the hands. Since we have experienced a definite effect as the result of a certain cause, we are able, when experiencing this effect alone, to conclude the existence of its special cause. The sculpture in question thus illustrates a definite effect, namely the behavior of bodies under the influence of centrifugal force, so that we associate to the cause, which is the rotating effect.
”Spiral space” denotes the final phase in the development of the theme, a consequence of the tendencies established in ”Pirouette”. The composition bas been freed from dependence on the human body, although its organization is basically an abstraction of what we have found in the earlier work ‑ a central pillar with sharp protuberances, varied in a screw formation around which the other forms seem to be rotating in a ceaseless serpentine, The axis is now entirely free‑standing, which further emphasizes its function as the center of power. Analogously with the effects of centrifugal force, the collecting pieces of mass, the plastic accents of movement, gather in the peripheral angles of the spiral. These mutually united elastic points of gravity run round the central pillar like a sort of broken rifling or thread, suggesting movement both by the screw tendency in their direction and the emphasis on weight and mass in the periphery. The mimic action of the forms suggests the theme: they describe a certain reaction, familiar to our experience, and thus associate to a definite action, i.e. the centrifugal movement.
The forms no longer portray things, but action.
(Ord och Bild 1/1958)
Arne Jones was long one of those artists whose proposals for monumental sculpture are usually rejected. This in spite of the fact that be worked from an early stage with sculpture that was a sort of architecture, an active component in a given environment. This was made eloquently clear by his bronze sculpture ”Cathedral” 1947‑48: ”. . . a clean, multi‑limbed sculpture with an emphasized height movement, a synthesis of the elastic, bearing parts of a male and female human body, and a neo‑Gothic cathedral” (from the catalogue to the exhibition ”New reality” 1950). This sculpture, in which two people are transformed. to architecture in a sort of Gothic interplay, has become a symbol of Swedish plastic art in the ’Forties’.
On one of his many studies for ”Catbedral” Jones has written: ”Man is everything he does” ‑he can identify himself with his work, with what he builds or constructs. This little note is something of a key to the sculptor’s earlier works. He always started from reality, he felt sometimes the need for an intimate and true contact with reality, as shown by his finely characterized, nervously modeled heads. Concerned at the same time with constructional problems, he has in other sculptures gradually, in numerous sketches, peeled off all that is coincidental, all that is uninteresting for his purposes. And so finally he achieves a composition in which the starting point may be difficult to discern, but in which we sense the impulses from architecture and engineering. This was how work progressed on his first sculpture to attract any wider attention, ”Man’s bridges” (1946), in which the very name suggests a constructional will‑power, a bridge‑building developed from the human anatomy. His approach *was the same with ”Cathedral”, where the problem was to give the Gothic ogives the character of human beings, to create an interplay between living, organic and architectonic form. By a process of increasing abstraction, Jones soon abandoned all human anatomy and carne to treat sculpture as pure architecture of form. With time, he could conduct Utopian experiments with sculptures of monumental size as pergolas and galleries in parks ‑ a non‑functional architecture that was intended to embrace people and give them a new experience of space. From this be came to see sculptures as acting ”things”. In a way, this was something he had done from the start, in so far as his work was often characterized by impulses to motion.
The spiral motif was nothing new for Jones when he made the first sketches for his fountain. In a way, it had been a recurring theme in his production. The strongly abstracted sculptures mentioned above had been preceded by others, including a standing woman, ”Absurdite” (1946). This figure, from a living model, shows a strongly pronounced contraposto, and a twisting movement by the body’s displacements in the plane. The theme is more the mechanism of the figure’s movement than a vegetative female form. Above all the movements of the legs have been studied, differently from different sides. We can call this sculpture a dance motif; it came from the artist’s interest in dancing. He was particularly interested in the pirouette. He photographed dancers and tried by double exposure to capture the rotating movement. He drew dance motifs, abstracted the pirouette as a sculptural theme and let the limbs work in the surrounding air in the composition. Unlike the classical Aphrodite, his angular ”Absurdite” tries to present a number of different movement studies in one and the same sculpture. In the sketches, the thin metal volumes of the spiral showed a nervously modelled surface. This was now replaced by the hard‑white, sand‑blasted aluminium plate with its visible rivets. This new material gave the air‑embracing sculpture of movement a greater severity, a purely technical and constructional beauty. The sculpture was built out of doors by skilled workers in accordance with the artist’s instructions and detailed drawings, a laborious task that presented in due course new problems of a technical nature. The sculpture has been placed in a low, square basin of concrete and stone, designed in co‑operation with the artist. The inner spiral is rotated by the pressure from the water flowing out through three winged tubes starting from the foot of the spiral. That the sculpture should be powered by water and not by a motor was an essential part of the artist’s idea. Great care has been taken with the solution of this problem, and with the design of the jets. Here, as in so many other sculptures, Jones has used water as an integral part of his work.
A sculpture to see, to be in, to walk in, under and through. Architecture without function, open to the sun and rain, streamed through by the winds from the shore and sea.
Elements is one of the loveliest attempts made to form intangible space, the living and always reoccurring main theme of contemporary art. It describes the interplay and connection between space and mass, between the defined sculptural space and ambient nothingness. It is a brilliant formulation of the architecture of this intangible space ‑ a sculpture without limits or boundaries. The definitive nature of the forms and its gigantic scale also help us to experience this work as a summary of the visions of a whole generation of artists.
The sculpture is conceived as a manifold of standardized concrete units, four different elements. It can be seen as an expression of kinship with modem architecture, but it is above all a technical method of erecting a monumental concrete sculpture at low cost. The few elements facilitate our understanding of the complicated and ambiguous structure, but there is no question of effect by repetition ‑ the units are unhesitatingly employed as parts of a freely executed composition, a sculptural organism. In contemporary architecture, prefabricated units are creating an architectural order which is that of monotonous repetition.
The use of prefabricated units seems a self-evident approach in the present technical situation. It was hoped previously that it would be possible in spite of such methods to achieve a richly varied architectonic formation; some people may actually have dreamed that the composition of these units would permit a more adaptable and individualized architecture than previously. This is still theoretically possible, but there is a lot of evidence against its practice. The schemes of modem international architecture have become increasingly fixated, the monotonous repetition of identical units is used as an architectonic device. Infinitely additive repetition is a sort of aesthetic self‑sufficiency. The building is increasingly regarded as a sum of units and less as a whole ‑ the whole which carries the sculptural properties.
Monotonous repetition has a special aesthetic effect, and the infinity pattern and the mass arrangement are well‑known visual means. Faced with the monotonous older housing of big industrial cities, our impressions can oscillate between disgust at the sameness of the parts and, on another plane, an abstract experience of beauty in this same unending uniformity. The unendingly drawn facade scheme of modern architecture, the effects obtained by repetition and mass effect, with ”the curtain wall”, ”the wallpaper facade” etc., these of course are already architectural clichés. Even before prefabricated building has got seriously under way in Sweden, we have, ready to hand, an international cliché which will give us the face of this architecture. It wi.11 possibly prove as hard‑wearing a cliché as the orders of classical architecture. Technically and symbolically, at any rate, it is overwhelmingly adequate.
In spite of this, it may be symptomatic that Le Corbusier, one of the creators of modem architecture and its many clichés, aimed in his latest works at forms of expression which deviate from this ”cliché architecture” and start from purely sculptural forms. He may have felt that it was possible to find again in sculpture the starting points for a rejuvenation of architectonic form.
The soil’s thoughts of concrete
hopefulness of broken arcs
in tensile spring
from visible ground
to apparent purchase
over gaping emptiness
The worm’s painfully curved will
over the gravel torture
bridges over gaping emptiness
The sculptor Arne Jones makes one think of a builder whose freedom recognizes few boundaries. He studies his surroundings but even more the durability of his creations and their potentialities for expression. He is Valéry’s free architect, transposing movement into form, the shape of time into that of space. In this way, his sculptures acquire the same spaciousness that characterized the creations of the late Romanesque builder and the poetic constructor.
But whether the materials he works with are standardized blocks of vibrated concrete or elements of wrought iron or other metal, his is a world that is bound up in itself, a rather self‑sufficient world, completed but open. One can let one’s imagination follow a soaring form or wander along the paths in a formal garden. The volumes seem to be moving; they are intangible and yet one can touch them.
From Cathedral” to ”Elements” and ”Human building”: something between a ship drifting happily in the atmosphere and a freely‑worked pillar in a Franciscan and Cubist‑inspired mediaeval church.
Since 1947 Arne Jones has done pioneer work in creating an abstract, Nordic way of looking at things. People have tried to classify him in some group under such headings as ”concrete” and ”new reality”Originally these words had a different content, a different, accent. The ’Reality” came to be concerned with the inherent value of the figure: the subject was no longer a thing but a ”formtheme”. But the sculptor was still indirectly tied to his principles, the torso, the sphere, the block, the pillar and the lath.
But at least this involved a move away from the explicit to a systematic multiplicity of meaning, from re‑experience to the construction of an artistic, multiple development. In this way, a more immediate space‑relationship evolved: another architecture for the eye.
More than those of most other sculptors, Ame Jones’ works have extension. They have always striven upwards from their foundations: the earth, the ground, the floor and the pedestal, the last of which is not designed as a supporting plinth but as a contrasting element almost separate from the form itself. His sculptures have risen like human organisms stripped of all except their plain constructive elements, in one instance identical with those that form part of a Gothic space‑relationship called a cathedral, a diagram of supple, supporting limbs impinging upon one another in a juxtaposition of human couples. His sculptures have stood like monuments and they have sought the suspension inherent in the ballerina’s pirouette. Combinations of abstractions have sought with ever more ardent gestures to become detached, an attempt to achieve a definite and many‑facetted emancipation from the law of gravity. These gestures have not been unorganized, they have been built up as if by an architect or by an independent law of causation: like a great bundle of flattened organ pipes, released by a piercing tone into a soaring and a fall, to be assembled again by a new chord.
In all he does, there is the evident intention to create constant elements. Actually one such element already occurs in continually changing shapes: the stave or lath. The cut, split or whittled lath forms the supporting element throughout. The light or heavy pillar is profiled as the towering pole. Facetted as the nature of the wood prompts, too, are the poles that, singly or entwined together, have previously formed Jones’ current complexities of movement.
He works with the supporting elements used by the architect who works in wood, whose intensely rationalized forms are generally a Nordic hallmark. The ribs and the bands used in the wintry lands where the art of ship‑building flourished early, were once connected with the Normandie prototype of Gothic. In more northern latitudes, they are connected with a now obsolete phenomenon, the open roof‑trusses, constructions of beams, those at one and the same time supporting, securing and soaring beams that belong to the finest mediaeval buildings and the systems of braces and struts inside the old wooden lighthouses, in which the slender pieces of wood cross each other in every direction. The frame timbers and the planking of the boats were there too, but now turned towards the weather as the roof.
These constructions really exploited every possibility of the wood: each piece so cut and whittled down that it lost in weight while at the same time gaining strength and suppleness. In the same way, the masts and the finely shaped oars of slender boats were made.
The old wooden fences and the even older beacons were the result of the same attitude, the same intuition, though in the simplest forms. The original subject has always remained the slender tree trunk, the fir on the root; felled, chopped up or stripped of its branches, drifting through the swirling waters of the rivers towards predetermined places, or piled up like rubbish but also like a gesture. After the log jam has been blown apart with an explosive charge, each piece of timber in it glides on towards some new treatment. If it consists of pine logs, then sooner or later every part of it will come into contact with the sharp metal, be split and sawn into laths, joists, wedges and blocks.
In Jones’ sculptures, the wood always seems to be floating in the air; it may be stacked or the pieces may be pressing against each other or be in flight. The sculptures are fashioned in iron and other metals but they are imbued with the inherent qualities of wood, right down to its vertical fibers, like architecture of the free kind that Valéry thought was possible in one of his most idealistic moments. Therefore, in his constructions, Jones can let the plank and the block be replaced by such elements as the girder and the reinforcing rod. It is a question of the very idea of building, which is not spoilt by equally Nordic hints of metaphysical and cosmic poetry. Not many of the qualities of Norman building were lost when the architecture of wooden buildings was translated into stone.
Jones gives his metal the movement of wood, and he is a builder who tries to conquer the law of gravity but not the natural process of adhesion: adhesion during movement in the air. The building bricks become a house and a woman, the pile a figure. The slender, whittled trunks are piled in bundles up to the sky. The laths are drawn together into a flight and redeemed to form an entanglement that looks like a knot. The wood explodes in new constellations, released and yet held together. The dissolved form once more becomes a form. Movement never ages.