Jonathan Owen is best known for his interventions into ‘found’ antique sculptures, a process of re-carving and reinventing defunct marble statuary in an attempt - as he puts it - “to subvert and puncture this familiar rhetoric, and so to reactivate the object through transformation rather than destruction, to make a new proposition.”
This approach offers a way of working that seems especially relevant at the present moment (as the conversation around public monuments is so vigorously reconsidered and rephrased) questioning ideas of permanence and power, attributes so often associated with the original sculptures that are his favoured raw material.
The exhibition includes dramatically re-worked busts of once powerful men, but at its centre there is a major new sculpture based on a life-size, allegorical figure of Navigation, a figure that formerly stood proud as a symbol of empire and exploration - sextant and rudder at the ready - reduced to a pile of interlinking chains snaking off its plinth.
Alongside this group of new sculptures Owen will also present new 'eraser drawings' - also made by a reductive process, a kind of two-dimensional carving of old book pages - working backwards through layers of ink from blacks through greys to white, gradually removing tone from the surface of the page to delete the foreground subject, and subtly re-form the background.
The first of these, made some years ago, concentrated on removing statues from their plinths, but his most recent series has focussed on images from the history of cinema, erasing the foreground figures of Hollywood stars, and reshaping them into the inanimate details of the scenes they once inhabited.