The Royal British Society of Sculptors? No, we hadn't heard of its existence either. Well, if there exists a Royal Society of Holographers, there must be a Royal Society for this slightly more ancient artistic medium. With its headquarters tucked away in on Old Brompton Road in West London, it has existed for just over 100 years and currently has over 500 members. They are working sculptors, from all over the world (they removed the "being British" part of the qualification for membership years ago). If you're imagining a somewhat stuffy body full of work trying to be just like classical sculpture by dead Italians, possibly produced by men with Victorian facial hair then you'll be either disappointed or relieved to hear that it is actually an organisation which celebrates contemporary sculpture, and provides support services for living sculptors.
What drew us down here in the first place is that they have a series of month long exhibitions based on materials. Opening night saw talks by three of the six sculptors taking part in the exhibition with cheap wine, and an 'if you are interested enough to make it down to hear the talks, then you are welcome to come in' door policy. Frankly, that's our favourite sort of approach!
As you'd expect the talks were fascinating glimpses into the process of making sculpture. How artistic intent, and the physicality of the chosen medium, compromise into the creating of sculpture. This month the exhibition was themed around steel, with the sculpture in the show ranging from explorations of geometry, through exploration of the organic forms and movement of dance, to downright aggressive spikes. A far cry from the usual usage of steel in the corporate futurism of the city.
They have two further exhibitions in this series. One about clay and one about landscape. If you have even the slightest interest in sculpture, you'll dig this.
Words and pictures by Oliver Gili
18@108: Steel is at The Royal British Society of Sculptors Gallery, 108 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 until 4 April. For more information see their website.