Failed Obelisk

2009
Mortar, Foam board
430 x 75 x 75 cm
Edition of 1

Balmforth's Failed Obelisk redefines our relationship to the obelisk, an object that is synonymous with technical achievement, triumph, human egotism and a hubristic connection to the divine. The obelisk symbolises stability, permanence and irrefutable authority, connoting a very specific type of power. Failed Obelisk takes the form of a traditional obelisk, with a detached apex suspended by a spring that appears to be coiled through the body of the monument. The image suggests a hypothetical former state of unity - broken when the accumulated tension of the compressed spring was released, forcibly disengaging the upper section. Through its sheer size and symbolic associations the obelisk is imbued with a palpable sense of potential energy. This latent energy is embodied in the mechanical function of the coiled spring, creating an opposition of tensions within the edifice. Failed Obelisk is a structure composed of the forces that will annihilate it, a testimony to the tendency towards instability within closed systems.The symbolic authority of the obelisk is, ultimately, fatally undermined by the failure to contain the mechanical forces concealed within. The release of the spring's pent-up energy destroys the symbolic integrity of the monument. Failed Obelisk renders the obelisk austere symbol of an inflexible and oppressive power, absurd. The result is a ruined monument to humiliated authority.

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About The Artist

Balmforth's work aims to distil concepts and aspects of human experience in deceptively simple forms by exploiting the evocative and analytic potential of material and symbolic structures. In works that often employ mechanical apparatuses to accentuate the primacy of relations of rudimentary materials such as stone and ash, Balmforth reveals the simplicity inherent in elaborate concepts, and the hidden complexities of seemingly straightforward ideas. This engagement with formal and philosophical tensions reveal complexity and simplicity to be mutually dependent rather than diametrically opposed classifications. His practice is concerned with the life, function and potential of material objects. His work often explores how these symbolic relationships contribute to our ideas about history and society. Preoccupied with notions of limitation, degradation and ruin, Balmforth’s manipulation of subject and material simultaneously attempts to expose the failures within established systems and suggest the potential for creative forces born of destruction. Through exposing the redemptive potential in collapse and degradation, the artist sees his work as being the product of an optimistic, rather than fatalistic, worldview. His work also demonstrates an interest in the progress attained through the deconstruction of existing systems and structures, an interest exemplified in Failed Obelisk.

James Balmforth

Born: 1980

Other Artworks by James Balmforth at CASS

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