Alick Sweet

26 birds 3 dogs and a foot
Roz MacAllan Gallery
June 1988

26 Birds 3 Dogs and a Foot - a sculptural menagerie, a constructivist montage, a myriad of fractured icons.

Sweet's exhibition is a proliferation of "beak headed blocks", the progeny of post-contructivism and the nostalgic study of natural forms, gives rise to a paradoxical form, a hybrid bird/machine.

Simulacrums of the mythological ibis and jackal and the African totem, juxtaposed with the geometry of machine precision.

Component parts are individually manufactured. Shiny bronze or wooden beaks, solid shapes, elongated canine capita, smooth cylindrical rods and solid sculpted piers are assembled in an arbitrary montage.

Angles, shapes, surfaces, textures and colours are caste in a play of contradiction.

Forms echo the formal constructivism of Pevsner and Gabo and the experimental assemblages of Schwitters and Maholy-Nagy, yet have their origins in the study of natural forms. Studies of bird and dog skulls produce linear drawings, a skeleton of finely etched grey arcs and axis is reinforced by chalked red and strong black lines.

A draftsman's mapping of natural structures: built, constructed, deconstructed, reconstructed until the architecture evolves.

The metamorphic process is evident, and the "process" is significant.

The giant looming red and green parrot head, a near cry to naturalistic representation - a fresh "Barbara's House and Garden's bird on a stick", becomes stripped, flattened out, geometricized, into a bold and sometimes sleek machine - an authoritative icon.

The duality of construction/deconstruction is achieved by a lego block type of assemblage where each piece is an autonomous unit, individual yet equal to every other piece. The arbitrary construction of components evokes a visual synthesis/analysis contradiction.

Sweet's interest in experimentation, accident, rearranging shapes, applying colour, reapplying it, (accidentally or incidentally) juxtaposing angles, gives the work a spontaneous strength so often lacking in production oriented sculpture. In the context of contemporary art discourses, this work with its eclectic Egyptian, African, Constructivist mix and "processed" evolution finds many parallels in Post-Modern thought.

The post-industrial commodification of the image, the reification of the living and the scientific "specimen" - nature controlled, dissected, recorded.

The 26 Birds 3 Dogs and a Foot, stand as symbols that salvage the lost images of the past and confront the banality of mass production.

As a vestige of constructivist iconography, this work demonstrates an intensity and veracity sometimes lacking in empty, cosmetic creations which shroud themselves in the vanguard of "Post Modernism".

The embellishment of the work with a colourful text is periphery and superfluous.

They succeed in levelling the spiral of history, espousing the past and present, by exploiting contradiction and constructing a genre of refined images.