Reflections on Sculpture – Tucker, Scott


The totals or unities created by man in his attempts to understand and control the world. (WT)

Isolation of the particular within our world. Investing of personal identification in the physical properties of the world around us. A chair, not because it is wood or round, but because of sitting, comfort, symbol. (TS)


a) Matter in general.

b) The solid earth under one’s feet.

Weight; a feeling of substance; approaching knowledge of matter. Time; a feeling of permanence.


The void, emptiness. Between things, above, about and below things, the air we breathe.

Tension; that part of the world we can activate by our presence, by our actions.


One-ness, two-ness, three-ness, etc. As in the Roman numerals I, II, III. The formal and symbolic characteristics of numbers.

One, the point, the centre.

Two, the pair, mirror-image, simple symmetry.

Three, the vertices of the triangle, the primitive series, instable, open, the air.

Four, the square, stability, the ground, the cycle ended.

The more plastic the expression, the more fundamental the symbol; in the end both seeing and knowing, sensation and memory, are identified.

Volume as volume – (mass)

Volume as plane – (configuration)

Volume as line – (direction)

Order; making sense by pattern. The quality of relationship. Measure; the order of dimension and the diagnosis of cause and effect in the physical world. Intensity; the degree of pattern and control that we can disperse around us. The only means by which we can reduce physical property to a comprehensible mental structure (idea).


A point: the object exists for the sake of this point, exists through it and around it. The centre is the centre of gravity as it might exist for the figure outside it – i.e. we are aware of the object in the same way we are aware of our own centrality, by inference, passively: as we recognize our selves at the centre of our ‘own’ sensations. The object is fixed, still, because it is the centre. The spectator is free to move, because by attending to the object he has disposed of his centrality, and must seek it in the object.

The traditional concept of the ‘heart’ We are incapable of constructive thought without recognition of centrality. It is the establishment of ego, of a point of meaning from which contact can be made. It is fundamental to all structural law.


Level in sculpture corresponds to distance in traditional perspective painting. The ground is the horizon: the rising layers above mediate between spectator and horizon. Distance between points (both internally and externally with relation to the spectator) physically exists, and is given and modulated by perspective.

Level is the degree of immediate visual perception. Immediate contact person to person takes place at eye level – the face. The visual discovery of the object corresponds to the level from which in distance this initial contact takes place. It is an anthropomorphic ratio.

Sculpture is a proposition about the physical world, about a finite order (completeness), and by implication about our existence in the world; the direction of the activity itself being toward the general, away from the personal.

Sculpture acts by displacement; it is the state of being, the state of feeling, the state of experience, the state of physical awareness and sensation, the state of confrontation by physical phenomena; not these things themselves or an interpretation of them.

Any object exists partly (1) because it physically is, it can be proved to have an independent existence in the world, partly (2) in the mind, so that it has identity, being of a kind, of a class, and partly (3) in the individual experience, personal and special to him.

Thus a tree, for example, is and grows: it has a word by which everyone can recognize it: and it has a particular meaning in the memory of every individual. Sculpture also must have the generality of the world: the identity of the object: the character of a human individual.

Any art generates the emotion and intelligence proper to that art. Sculpture seems so exposed to sentimentality and rhetoric that only a handful of sculptors have arrived at that point where pure sculptural emotion, pure sculptural intelligence, freed from the kinds of feeling or intelligence at work in the other arts, or in life, have been released. It is a creation of the mind first, before hand or eye. The object is a proposition – ‘suppose such a thing should exist’. There is no longer any resistance in the traditional limits of sculpture, Imitation and Material. The sculptor must now take responsibility for everything he does. Even the physical properties of matter are no longer inherent: they are assigned by the sculptor.

What distinguishes an object of sculpture from other objects (identity)? What special realm is there in the field of human experience which demands that there should be a sculpture (reality) ?

Identity; that which distinguishes the essence of matter in the world. The characteristics given by accumulation of experience and the ability to make conscious choice within this. The ability to consciously choose and incorporate particular facts’ available within the world structure in order to create an individual harmony and order, a remaking of the person.

Reality; the effect of comprehension of the real, and, causing this, the necessity for an equivalent to emotional perception of the real, underlie art. The particular form of an art is a conscious reduction of personal activity to means which will unfold the uniqueness of that Wealness’ within its terms.

Sculpture penetrates the inhabited world. If it is not to be simply active (‘dynamic 1 ) or aggressive in its passivity (simply ‘being there 1 ), it must have a complex double character which might be called ‘reflective’; i.e. it exists and its structure reflects consciousness of its existence. It will have internality, without being withdrawn from the real into an internal world.

Sculpture has now the greatest freedom to comprehend its terms on the broadest basis. It is no longer confined by the restrictions of attitudes toward content and subject. It can achieve poetry in which the language itself is invented, is a product of pure analysis and conception.

These ‘Reflections’ were originally published with the subtitle ‘A commentary by Tim Scott on notes by William Tucker’ in the catalogue of the exhibition Tim Scott; sculpture 1961-67 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, June-July 1967

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