Since winning the Turner Prize in 1987, Richard Deacon has been elevated to the level of one of the great British sculptors working today, alongside notable names such as Tony Cragg and Bill Woodrow — the latter has a retrospective currently on at the Royal Academy.
Deacon’s Tate retrospective features drawings and small-scale sculptures, but these can be largely set aside as a side show because what Deacon is famous for are his larger pieces. There are several on display here including a work with sinuous curves that seems to have evolved naturally rather than being crafted.
‘Mammoth’ is a work made from aluminium vents that snakes back in on itself and ‘After’ features sweeping wooden curves around a uniform steel sheet. These sculptures seem to sit on the fence of the natural and industrial worlds, and by merging the two Deacon is able to create works that grab the attention of visitors with their organic design.
The exhibition is well curated so that each sculpture has enough space for viewers to see the subtle nuances of the works from different angles. It could be said that Deacon’s portfolio lacks variety, and that many of his works look quite similar, but the small number of pieces on show ensures the viewer avoids repetition.
The difficulty with Deacon’s art is that while aesthetically pleasing, his works struggle to engage with viewers and can often feel impenetrable. This show does have its moments, and though most visitors will find something to like, it’s not the most memorable.
Richard Deacon is on at Tate Britain from 5 February until 27 April. Tickets are £10 for adults, concessions available.