Museum PR Announcements News and Information

Royal Academy of Arts Opens John Maine RA After Cosmati

The Royal Academy of Arts presents After Cosmati, a new environmental sculpture installation by John Maine RA, on view 9 November–18 December 2011. Maine is best known for making large outdoor sculptures in stone which form relationships with and are inspired by the surrounding landscape. Maine’s extensive travels have informed his sculpture and he has created monumental installations over the world. Maine’s new work for this exhibition will highlight his current interest in creating a sense of an expansive space within a contained area.

Maine’s work utilises simple forms such as rings, columns and cones. Physical weight and texture also characterise his work which encourages contemplation and a celebration of the elements. This piece can be viewed as a departure from his usual work in the landscape and is the first time that he has ‘brought the outside, inside’, on such a grand scale. The motivations behind After Cosmati vary subtly from Maine’s work in the past, which has seen him respond to landscape, architectural traditions and found objects.

Maine has been closely involved as an advisor with the recent conservation of the Cosmati Pavement in Westminster Abbey. This unique medieval pavement, situated in front of the High Altar, was laid down in 1268 and is a highly decorative mosaic made of coloured marble, and glass. Formed of a group of nine main roundels, the geometric design is inscribed with the words; the spherical globe here shows the archetypal macrocosm; meaning, simply, that it symbolises the universe.

It is this notion of the archetypal macrocosm, and his intimate experience of the Cosmati Pavement, which has inspired Maine to create this new environmental body of work for the Weston Rooms. Attracted by the pavement’s ability to evoke the ‘sense of a world beyond’, Maine has created a grouping where the relationship between a diverse selection of stones—sourced from Brazil, China, Cornwall, India, South Africa, Scotland and Russia—is as important as the individual stones themselves. Lines marking out pathways suggest the idea of a constellation or linear map (this theme will be continued in the etched stone drawings in the Small Weston Room). Some of the stone’s surfaces have been intimately worked upon, carved and honed; others have been left to expose their natural grain and tonality. Every stone has been selected for a reason; ‘some create a setting and some create a focus’.

John Maine was born in 1942 in Bristol. He studied at the West of England College of Art from 1960 to 1964 and then at the Royal College of Art until 1967. He became the first fellow at the start of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, exploring the setting of sculpture out of doors. Afterwards he travelled widely, created a landscape sculpture in Japan, and spent a year in Australia carving a granite arch for the British High Commission in Canberra. Returning to London, he worked in situ to carve ‘Arena’ on the South Bank. This practice of developing large works in landscape was taken further in Portland, Dorset, where he made the Chiswell Earthworks, as part of the Common Ground New Milestones Project. In Aberdeenshire he took part in the quarry landscape of Kemnay as ‘Place of Origin’. Recent works include the Islington Green Memorial and coastal projects at the Isle of Wight and Weston super Mare. His works are held in many public collections including the Arts Council of Great Britain, British Council, the British Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, Australia. Maine has been a Commissioner at the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England since 1996 and is a member of the Westminster Abbey Fabric Commission and the Fabric Advisory Committee of St. George’s Chapel Windsor. Maine was elected Sculptor RA in 1995.

The Artists’ Laboratory is a programme of exhibitions which commenced in 2010. The series underpins the Royal Academy’s unique position in having artists at its core. They give Royal Academicians the opportunity to take risks and explore new ideas within their artistic practice and are a chance for the public to experience less familiar aspects of their work. Artists’ Laboratory 05 & 06 will take place in autumn 2012.

John Maine RA in Conversation with Dr. Richard Cork
Thursday 10 November
John Maine RA and Dr Richard Cork consider Maine’s new work After Cosmati, a response to the recently restored pavement at the heart of Westminster Abbey.
Large Weston Room; 4–5pm

This exhibition programme has been devised by a committee of Royal Academicians together with Kathleen Soriano, Director of Exhibitions and Edith Devaney, Head of Summer Exhibition and Curator (Contemporary Projects), Royal Academy of Arts.

Image: John Maine RA, Central granite carving for the installation ‘After Cosmati’ in process 2011. Image courtesy of the artist.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *