I've mentioned Welsh sculptor Theo Shields previously on the blog, as he graduated in 2014 from Edinburgh College of Art and I saw some of his glass pieces on display during the degree show. His emphasis on robust, earthly elements and their relationships with one another were why I was originally drawn to Window through Fence (2013) and the beauty in the tension between the simultaneous fragility and resilience of metal, glass, and stone when juxtaposed with or subjected to time, the elements, and each other.
One of my favorite works blends sculpture and a bit of performance: Pyre on Frozen Lake, for which the artist constructed a 2 meter-high wooden pyre on a frozen lake in Snowdonia, Wales, forcing elemental interaction between fire and ice as the pyre burned.
Shields explores the dichotomy of creation and destruction, and plies beneath the surface to reveal the inner 'identity' of natural objects. Discarded, surf-tumbled bricks reconstruct a wall or a tower in Sea Defences, and both Internal Space and Fulgurites explore the inner, unseen texture and space within hollowed trees, and as a replication of the process of lightning striking sand and solidifying its electric path by fusing sand crystals into fragile glass. Materials such as iron, steel, or earth bricks that we comprehend as strong and durable are utilized in compositions that question their innate strength. Their detailed, airy forms (the gapped wall in Sea Defences, or the spindly details in the Fulgurites) make them more vulnerable to time, physics, or even the ebb of the tide.
Just as he rebuilds from discarded or decaying forms, he also deconstructs the identities of his pieces. Identity loss begins with a plaster cast of a face, from which another mould is made, and so on, until the detail of the original face is blurred to obscurity.
Shields was awarded the Astaire Art Prize from Edinburgh College of Art in 2014 and was also selected to exhibit at the Royal Scottish Gallery with Visual Arts Scotland. More work and information can be found at theoshields.com.