Published in conjunction with Waddington Custot Galleries which held the first exhibition to consider the relationship between the Spanish artist Joan Miró and Barry Flanagan which opened on 8 October 2014, Two Pataphysicians offered a unique opportunity to explore the inventiveness and versatility of their work and their shared interest in the idea of ’Pataphysics.
Created by the French writer Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), ’Pataphysics was defined by him as a ‘science of imaginary solutions’. Properly denoted with an apostrophe before the ‘p’, as if to close a previous speech mark, the ideology is founded on principles of metaphorical circularity and alchemical processes. Often exploring a juxtaposition between paradox and the absurd, ’Pataphysics shaped twentieth century movements including Dada and Surrealism.
For this exhibition, Waddington Custot Galleries selected sculptures by both artists to demonstrate the influence that Jarry's ideology exerted on their work and highlighting the inspiration that Flanagan took from the work of the Catalan master.
Reflecting the pataphysical emphasis on mutable forms, Miró's sculptures imbue discarded objects such as tools, wheels, contraptions and bits of furniture with human-like associations. Transformed through the casting process, the patina of the bronze accentuates the found nature of the objects and emphasises their organic qualities. Often resembling artefacts from an ancient site, these items are curiously familiar and simultaneously alien.
The morphological principle of ’Pataphysics is also evident throughout Flanagan’s oeuvre and can be seen here in the unicorn rearing up on its hind legs, the colourful hessian wall hangings and his trademark bronze hares that leap and dance through the exhibition. The artist’s fascination with the hare began with his sighting of the creature leaping through a snowy field. The animal’s energy and grace captured the artist’s imagination, and in 1979 he made his first cast of a leaping hare. In an interview in 2006, Flanagan stated that he found in the hare a rich and expressive subject that could carry the conventions of the cartoon and the attributions of the human into the animal form.