With a dazzling show as part of Edinburgh’s Science Festival, plus plans for a new city

7,33,“, sculpture finally . reaching fruition, 3 ' Eduardo Paolozzi,

is at last getting the recognition in his home town he deserves. Alice Bain talked to the artist " fiabout his work

-‘ 1.

Head of Hephaestus 1987

‘Science is such a big word’. Eduardo Paolozzi was faint on the line. A crackle hi-jacked every other word of this talk about the scale of science, the history of art and the collision of the two. ‘Theorise’ and ‘comment‘ came through loud and clear. Shaped by Paolozzi’s mellow, vaguely Edinburgh voice, the word ‘tradition’ was also unmistakable the ‘tradition‘ of art and science, the ‘tradition’ of artists using cast-off materials, the ‘tradition’ of Scottish artists moving around, looking out into the world for inspiration. A traditionalist then ofthe most contemporary nature. Paolozzi and his ideas came across in collage. His old phone cut our conversation into frustrating fragments leaving behind a handful ofpages covered with clues.

Those clues inevitably lead to his work. Though trained as a sculptor at the Slade during the forties, he has defied categorisation and explored and mastered a variety of media.

Making things is central to Paolozzi’s life. ‘I used to make aeroplanes out of scrap wood. It depends what you make as a child what you make as an adult, when it becomes art.’ Between helping his parents in their ice cream business, he also collected cuttings from magazines and comics, pasting them into the pages ofsecond-hand novels, science manuals or books of poetry. Recycling objects came naturally.

Paolozzi has continued the collecting habit throughout his long, prolific career, describing human experience as ‘one big collage’. As our culture continues its progress towards finely tuned specialisation and stream-lining where ‘making things’ is something done by machines, Paolozzi holds up diversity and versatility as a virtue, both in his own work methods and his understanding ofwider issues. His exhibition at the Museum of Mankind, The Lost Kingdoms. set his own work alongside museum exhibits and found objects. Displayed together, they made their own connections, sparked off their own magic. Culture and civilisation needs the magic as much as it needs the intellect.

As the magic ofculture is lost, so too are the abilities to make things. ‘Ifyou look in the Museum of Childhood, poor unemployed people made toys for their children. I think that’s gone now. People just press a button and look at a video. It’s too much pushing buttons instead of making things with their handsf

Surprisingly, his home town of Edinburgh, Leith to be precise. has been slow to respond to the work of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, undoubtedly one ofthe greatest living artists. It was Glasgow’s Hunterian Art Gallery who commissioned a great pair of aluminium doors, hung in 1980 to weighty. spectacular effect. Only in 1987 did Edinburgh rise to his talents when Heriot-Watt University made him an Honorary Doctor of Letters and the Royal Scottish Academy made him one of their few Honorary Members.

Professor of Sculpture at the Academic der Bildenden Kunste. Munich since 1981, Paolozzi is an infrequent visitor to Scotland. though never a stranger. In 1984. ‘Recurring Themes‘ filled the Royal Scottish Academy and last year his sculpture solidly squared itself against the distractions of the Glasgow Garden Festival. This month at the Talbot Rice Gallery.

Paolozzi participates in the city’s first Science Festival.

He was an obvious. but dazzling choice. For many years Paolozzi has embraced the images ofscience and technology in his art. Using the screenprinting technique which he helped to bring into fine art currency in the sixties. he makes lines of machinery whirr like colourful brains. The machine has been present since his early work and has in many ways been a dominant image. Paradoxically. as Paolozzi witnesses the ever-increasing encroachment of technology and what he has described (at a previous exhibition at the Talbot Rice in 1979) as ‘the acceptance of the concrete landscape and the destruction of the human soul’. it is the figure which stands monumentally to the fore. In this exhibition, Hephaestus, the god of fire and architect of the gods. makes a stand in the gallery. a portrait ofthe artist as commentator. His head is sliced and cut and his jolting limbs are those of a new Frankenstein.

While his work inevitably finds its way into the gallery. Paolozzi is perhaps best known for the sculpture. murals and mosaics which illuminate a more public arena. There is the symphonic mosaic which has livened up the busking tunnels of Tottenham Court Tube Station since 1984. the earlier geometric shapes of the 1974 mural ‘Berlin Wall’. the cooling tower just outside Pimlico Tube Station which straps a functional air conditioning unit to art. the collection of sculptures made for the Rhinegarten in Cologne in 1980.

Soon. ifall parties agree. Edinburgh will finally have a Paolozzi to add to the cultural life of the city. The trees at the top of Leith Walk have moved from the roundabout and a redesign of that area includes the incorporation of a major Paolozzi work. The artists‘ current suggestion is that the sculpture is based on his work at Cologne, a series of roughly geometric Inca shapes. possibly made of local stone which fit into the scale and history of the area and which people can react with. get to know and use.

Edinburgh has a double opportunity. At the Talbot Rice the sculpture made specially for the Science Festival. ‘For Leonardo‘. has been made to scale in wood and now only needs a patron to cast it in bronze. Paolozzi puts patrons into two simple catagories. the good and the bad. Let us hope that Edinburgh will have the vision to be a ‘good‘ patron For Leonardo and Picardy Place.


The List 7 20 April I989 49