Steven Claydon has exhibited his sculptures everywhere, from the Tate Modern and Art Basel to a tiny shed in the Swiss Alps, but the latest venue for his work is a little closer to home: The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL). It seems like an unusual choice for the high profile, London-based sculptor, but it was suggested by Reading International, and Claydon explained:
“With my work which deals with the nature of the thing, the alterity of the thing and the migration and transformation of things it seemed like the right place to be.”
‘The Outside In’ exhibition, as it’s called, was “a long time in the planning”, according to Claydon, affording him the time to consider the sculptures he presented to MERL, and allowing them to fit so seamlessly with the local museum.
He said: “I wanted to create a counter-point that would re-accentuate some of the works that were already here.”
In the exhibition, he includes some older recombined work with pieces from his personal collection of Melanesian artefacts. His fascination with these works comes both from their ‘authenticity outside of the global construct of capitalism and the market place and the way that culture is affected by that’ and the exploratory shapes that they take on.
Claydon’s interest in sculpting came from playing around with ‘stuff’ as a child along with his twin brother, making model kits and using clay. Jokingly, Claydon accounts how they never actually made or finished what they were supposed to make, and instead enjoyed being creative and using their imaginations instead.
“It was all about transformation” Claydon clarifies, “and what was known in the model making world as conversion.”
But Claydon’s sculpting isn’t the only area in which he has found success. From playing in a band with members of ‘Radiohead’ to listening to the hurdy-gurdy in his studio, he has been heavily involved in music and has even featured in Harry Potter in the band ‘The Weird Sisters’. Interestingly he divulged that the band had originally featured much more heavily in the franchise, but had unfortunately been cut out of most of it due to a legal dispute with another band that shared the same name. Despite this, music continues to feature heavily in Claydon’s creative process whereby he listens to a wide range of music.
It seems that the biggest moments of shaping for Claydon’s career, for him, were the ones where he had the biggest challenges to overcome or when things went most wrong. Such as, times when work was commissioned and then not payed for due to unforeseen circumstances (and of course the events of Harry Potter).
He explained: “Usually the things that appear to be a bad thing turn out to be an educational thing.”
Claydon hopes to catalyse a change in the world around him through his sculptures.
He believes: “An original encounter is poetic, aesthetic and political. It covers all of that, no matter how subtly.”
The exhibition ran until the 13th of January, and in the coming year Claydon will be going to Korea, Japan and China, as well as doing outdoor pieces in Holland and having a show in LA.
Questions you have never been asked before (hopefully)!
Do you believe in ghosts?
My brother said to me a few years ago, “Steve, I’m about ready to believe in ghosts.” and I like the idea that you can get to that stage rather than start from that stage. So yeah, I’m getting there.
What is the most recent thing that you googled?
I was just on a long train journey, so several thousand things. The general theme was, well, it’s quite morbid. My grandfather who I never met died in a plane crash, but it’s one of those planes that is like a sea plane that takes off from the sea. So, I was googling these planes because I’m interested by things that live in different media.
What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?
Become an artist!