Joseph Black: Balance

John Keats’ Ode to A Grecian Urn begins with the words ‘silence and slow time’; the opening lines spoken between the poet and the artist about their act of artistic creation. The artist is long-forgotten and the experience has long-ended. Thus the age of the object has outlived the story it depicts.


Just as in Ode to a Nightingale, when immortality is glimpsed in the bird’s effortless song, in Ode on a Grecian Urn it is to be found in the stillness and silence of classical sculpture. It was these ideas which have informed the work I have made for this exhibition. I wanted to find sculptural and timeless natural elements which are able to evoke a sense of calm and a balance between the delicate and the permanent, between the solidity of an object and the lattice filigree of thin branches and growth.


I wanted to express the idea that growth is rooted in the inspiration we find from the world around us. The tree stands for the rootedness of ideas, a system of connections symbolically hidden or literally rooted within an art object.


For me, depictions of the horse too symbolise the relationship between nature and art. They are sculptural in the literal sense; the suspension of weight, the modulation of surfaces, the turns and curves and shapes. But they could also be considered as the most sculpted of animals. The history of the horse is one of shaping and moulding and breeding into the animals we have today. In their form I wanted to find a balance between the animal and the artwork and in so doing find the same balance of classical sculpture.

In nature around us, whether in the roll of the sea or the sound of a storm or the flight of a skylark, nature provides us with external images which are evocative of internal moods. The relationship between people and nature, and in particular between animals and their depictions in art, has always been the main focus of my work.


Like in Keats’ poem I found in ancient art and in its images a sense of stillness and delicacy; between the living animal, and its fixed and inexterminable position in art.


Joseph Black

Kent, April 2021


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