I believe that artists, when working at the optimum, inhabit a post verbal world connecting them with their pre verbal progenarators who roamed the plains and inhabited the caves of pre-history. So it is with a hint of Post Modernist irony that I endeavour to write on membranes and the work of Michael Shaw.

The sensuous luminosity of the latest inflated PVC organic geometries with their gentle assertiveness and lack of eco-design and architectonic pneumatics so reminiscent of the 60’s and 70’s, has attracted and engaged my sensibilities. I am impressed that he has managed to liberate, from the vast software archive, something more than the sum of the parts and is forming a language other than the linear graphic tradition of English sculpture, post Moore.

These structures are biomorphic, and removed from our normal perception of solid geometry based thinking, from Vantongerloo to Rachel Whiteread, or Lipchitz to John Maine. In Shaw’s work the references are as manifold as ectoplasm and the endless permutations of optical conundrum, as light both falls on, through, and is reflected by, tense curvatures of pressurised translucency.

Given that one of the major challenges for contemporary abstract sculpture is the issue of ‘identification’ and ‘interpretation ‘, it is no more eccentric to imagine Shaw’s INF3, 2005, as a vast droplet of blood, any more than it would be to think of Whiteread’s Turbine Hall installation as a critique on the arcades of capitalist excess. The work of both artists is contingent on geometry and sometimes informed by digital manipulation, and both would appear to be ‘driven’ by the will to form in that they are compelled to exert enormous mental and physical resources to exercise this impulse.More to the point, there is a strong sense of transcendentalism, activating the void and celebrating ambiguity rather than to neutralising it, so that in a time of technological egotism, politico cultural exhaustion and social intolerance, it is both challenging and rewarding to discover such reflectiveness in the work of two very different artists.

If this opportunity for reflection has led me to transgress to discursiveness and conceptualisation I make no excuse. Effective art always deconstructs the self, in order that we rebuild whatever that is, in a different way.A new kind of interdisciplinary thinking has revitalized the old synergy, art, science and technology to such a degree it has become difficult to distinguish the work of artists who mimic aspects of the quantum revolution, from those who genuinely seek to connect with the real inventors of the future, scientists. It might be that an aesthetic gene was factored in long before humans became sentient, but it would appear that taste and sensibility do not pass easily back and forth between the disciplines. It could be that the degree of specialization required to appreciate notions of superconductivity or the beauty inherent in the model of a mathematical equation, is too intense to allow for a smooth transfer of understanding.

I have a strong sense, from looking at these membranous inventions of Michael Shaw that he has indeed found a methodology and a creative attitude which transcends these barriers.

Nigel Slight

October, 2005