John Gibbons

Presence / Awaken

John Gibbons was born in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, in 1949 and was educated at the Limerick School of Art, the Crawford Municipal School of Art and at London’s St Martin’s School of Art.

Gibbons has produced a body of inventive, poetic, singular work that prompted Michael Harrison, the director of the University of Cambridge’s Kettle’s Yard, to describe him as “one of the most distinct and distinguished sculptural voices of the late twentieth century.” Many other significant voices in contemporary art offer similar insights.

“On a recent visit to Gibbons’ studio, we began to talk about Matisse. ‘Matisse is intellectual’, Gibbons said, ‘but his work is still about instinct and emotion. He applied extraordinary intelligence and focussed emotion in a very intense way. He didn’t get distracted.’ Gibbons could have been speaking of his own intentions.”

Karen Wilkin

“Gibbons’ work has an immense physical presence which exists regardless of size…. whether painted or polished, rusted, scraped or simply left alone, every inch of surface has been analysed, affirmed and consequently activated.” 

Tim Marlow

Surface where the inner and outer worlds meet – the place where material opacity clears to reveal the interior, has, I have come to realize been one of my main sculptural interests for some considerable time. Surface unites the inner and outer worlds – it is the place to listen through your eyes in order to see.The creative act is one of making conscious – bringing into visibility – that, which is unconscious, formatted in another sense. 

My sculpture is a dialogue of exposure – of bringing into the world some deeper sense/need, like a seed in the earth on feeling the sun’s spring heat. This journey, drawn by intuition to the place where all is one – a nothingness – a wilderness to be engaged with and from where vistas are opened on to the human physic. Is it possible for anything/one to existence with out a concept or a philosophical stance? – I believe not. As an artist these aspects become evident on the completion of the work – no different for a piece of text. The intellectual rigor of visual language applied equally no different from that of writing or mathematics. Content becomes evident or not at this point.    The unease of the spirit and body ‘compromised’ in their union, while their unique abilities remain frustrated/short in their separateness, also pre-occupies me.  

Sculptors are engaged with the unification of these two aspects of our make up, hence the very real potential of placing ourselves in conflict with ‘God’ – ‘Otherness’. There is a need to recognize this place and behave appropriately I was advised as a young artist. This place has pre-occupied my thought’s, the nature of my memory, both conscious and unconscious, generated through my breath and inheritance.

Photograph: Conor McKeown