Interview with artist Julian Cox
PUBLISHED: 09:58 15 July 2016 | UPDATED: 10:09 15 July 2016
From minimalist ink drawings to detailed bronzes, Bristol-based artist Julian Cox talks to Clare Bourke about the passion that drives him to create curves
Tell us about your background
Following an art foundation course in Bristol, I studied sculpture restoration for three years at Sir Roger de Grey’s PPRA, The City and Guilds of London Art School. Practical aspects of this course, which included a period of study in Northern Italy, emphasised drawing, modelling, carving, letter cutting, gilding and conservation/restoration techniques.
After art school, I was employed by international fine art restorers Plowden and Smith Ltd, London. Clients included the British Museum, the V&A, Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Work ranged from Ancient Roman mosaic to the Henry Moore sculptures in Battersea Park.
In 1988 I resigned from full time teaching to spend more time on my own work. Being elected to the Royal British Society of Sculptors in 2006 helped to consolidate my position and I am lucky enough to now have a large and growing number of people who encourage me by buying my art.
Art provides an intensely satisfying alternative to all the mundane trivia that we have to endure in everyday life.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Inspiration comes from countless sources such as a black hair on a white tile or the curves in a spiral staircase but I am particularly influenced by the female form combined with details from functional items such as tools and fishhooks.
Line drawings and sculptures seem to be very different specialities but is there a synergy between them?
I love both aspects of my art; drawing with ink and carving wood. I do not see them as separate elements but as two interrelated disciplines. All of my sculptures start with a series of drawings. Indian ink is a sensual medium that has recorded the history of mankind for thousands of years, whilst wood is a beautiful and tactile material which can be shaped perfectly into three- dimensional forms. Other aspects of my work include a painted four-panel mural underneath Vincenzo’s roof terrace on Park Street, Bristol, and even tattoo designs.
Your sculptures entitled Ten Torsos have proved very successful. Where did the idea for these come from?
The individual forms of my Ten Torsos are based on the female form but are combined with elements from various ancient antiquities such as the poppy-headed no.7 which is based on the pommel of a Roman sword and the axe head-shaped no.10 which is an appropriate reference to the Bronze Age.
I chose to do this series in bronze because it is the ideal medium to emphasise the historic background, which is also emphasised by the patination reminiscent of ancient pieces pulled glistening from the sea.
Your latest project is called simply Ten Things. Can you explain what these are?
Things are a series of 10 limited edition bronzes which I have produced this year. The original ‘patterns’ have been carved from wood and then will be cast into solid bronze, which is then finished and patinated. They should be completed, photographed and available by the early autumn.
These abstract forms have been designed with touch being as important as vision; all are made to feel ‘right’ in the hand. They are based on the kind of items that you feel drawn to picking up and exploring, such as old wear-worn tools. The beauty of the objects that inspire me is derived from the simplicity of their forms which relate perfectly to their function. I have tried to exclude any superfluous detail and refine each sculpture to its essence. I would like clients to place these works on a desk or other convenient surface where they will be regularly held and have their tactile qualities appreciated. I hope they will age beautifully.
So what does the future hold? is there already a new project in mind?
I am currently working on a large series of ink drawings in which a simple pot-like torso outline will remain exactly the same for each piece but which will be varied by the different treatment of interior details. Alongside these drawings I am making a pair of two foot tall abstract, linear figures which will again be cast into bronze.
Later in the year I would like to create a pair of large sculptures, which would be suitable to place in gardens.