Art or Engineering? – James Capper “Divisions” at the YSP

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The Yorkshire Sculpture Park usually have a number of exhibitions showing concurrently and at the moment, besides the main show of works by Yinka Shonibare they have a smaller exhibition featuring the creations of a young artist, James Capper, in the Bothy Gallery and also outdoors in the lower part of the park down towards the lakes.

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James Capper creates mechanical sculptures which, at first glance, appear to by the sort of industrial machines you might find on a construction site. They have the same look and colour scheme. But although the completed machines work, they wouldn’t be much use on a building site. They’re an interesting blend of art and engineering.

According the YSP website

Mechanical processes are central to Capper’s work and he is interested in the innovations of early engineering. Capper is inspired by the contributions made to engineering by prolific inventor Gilmour Le Tourneau (1888–1969) who developed a number of experimental and prototype earthmoving machines, many of which were used during World War II.

But he’s also influenced by living creatures. Speaking to the Financial Times he explained

I’ve been buying books on the anatomy of spiders to see how their joints work and whether that knowledge could be built into a machine,

He categorises his creations into three “divisions” – Earth Marking, Offshore and Material Handling – hence the title of the exhibition. The earth marking machines do what they say on the tin, and the result is a form of “Land Art”, albeit on a small scale.

The Bothy Gallery was showing sketches and models of his designs with a few larger mock-ups. And they were also showing three video films of his contraptions in action. I was particularly fond of his design for a “Walking Ship”

(Picture source – artist’s website at www.hannahbarry.com)

This is a model of his “Walking Tug”

(Picture source: YSP website)

These, and some of the other designs on display, reminded ame a little of the strange little machines that used to emerge from the pods on Thunderbird 2 in the classic Gerry Anderson series Thunderbirds.

There are also three of his earth marking sculptures displayed in the park;  Exstenda Claw (2012)

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Tread Toe(2010),

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and Midi Marker (2012)

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There were live demonstrations of these machines at the YSP during January and February. It would have been interesting to watch them in action, but there is a video of the demonstration posted up on Vimeo.

James Capper: Divisions from Yorkshire Sculpture Park on Vimeo.

I think that quite a few visitors would have loved to get in the driving seat and have a go themselves.

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