A gallery tour of Richard Hamilton at the ICA with artist James Capper.
James Capper’s art adopts the techniques, materials and problem-solving processes of mechanical engineering. His works are simultaneously functional and creative: the initial inspiration arises from the desire to address a specific practical construction challenge. The resolution of that issue necessitates creative thought, documented by the artist’s early concept sketches and maquettes. The completed sculpture, typically automotive, is installed in an environment with which it interacts. The ‘performance’ of the machines in their terrain have been documented on film. The artist’s work has as its goal the documentation of the creative process through the production of marks, traces, drawings and objects.
A talented draughtsman, Capper’s projects find their first expression in the sketches and watercolours that act as both blueprints for the idea’s later material realisation and independent compositions in line and colour. The artist’s repertoire of materials - steel, aluminium and hydraulics - as well as the means of their reconciliation - welding, metalworking and plasmacutting - demonstrates his ability to incorporate industrial processes into the realisation of his artistic programme.
The utilitarian impulse that underlies the works dictates that they are practical, that they work. The aesthetic appeal of these objects is commensurate with our appreciation of their ingenuity and their consequent fitness for purpose. As far as possible removed from the diktat of ‘art for art’s sake’, these works are, like the best pieces of mechanical engineering, beautiful precisely because they function.