Simon Gudgeon's minimalist, semi-abstract forms depict both movement and emotion of a moment captured with a visual harmony that is unmistakably his own. Working primarily in bronze but with media such as glass and stainless steel, Simon’s work continues to be recognised and collected all over the world.
British, b. 1958
Born in Yorkshire in 1958, Gudgeon ‘lived deep in the countryside on the family farm, learning the essential arts of observation, evaluation and interpretation of how animals and birds behave, both with each other and man’. After studying law at Reading University, he practised as a solicitor, starting painting only in his thirties and first exhibiting at London’s Battersea Exhibition Centre in 1992. An impulse purchase of artist’s clay at the age of 40 led into his new career as a sculptor, responding to what lay closest to his heart: the natural world.
Since then, Gudgeon has attained worldwide recognition, with regular museum exhibitions in America and a number of prominent public placements in London. Important private collections abroad and in the United Kingdom have acquired his sculptures, including those of Ther Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke of Bedford and The Duke of Northumberland. His work is on permanent display at the Diehl Gallery in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at Pallington in Dorset and at Halcyon Gallery, London.
Gudgeon creates primarily bronze sculptures but also works in marble and granite and occasionally in glass or stainless steel. For the modelling of the form, he uses a number of different materials, depending on the nature and scale of the subject – terracotta clay, oil-based Chavant clay, epoxy resin or foam. He continually experiments with new patinations at the foundry where his works are cast, giving each a unique finish.
Working directly from nature and live subjects, he crafts sculptures that share an elemental kinship of identity with all living things. He is particularly known for his sculptures of birds in flight, often with ingeniously engineered bases that seem to launch them into the air rather than anchor them to the ground. Hinting at how the creative process unfolds for him, he explains, ‘Most sculptures don’t start out as a conscious thought, with all the aspects of form and meaning carefully considered. What happens is that an idea enters my mind – be it a shape, a movement or an emotion – and I simply want to convey it. I must convey it! Ideas come from a combination of observations, thoughts, beliefs and the profound experiences of one’s life.’ Always challenged and excited by the extremes and dynamics of nature, Gudgeon is relentlessly innovative in the studio, aiming to ‘move away from the purely representational towards something that has a deeper subtext and, as it expresses ... thoughts and emotions, is more satisfying to create’.
Trips to Africa, Asia and Australasia have enabled Gudgeon to broaden his subject matter and experiment with a variety of styles and methods. His pared-down approach to sculpture embodies the flowing line of the skeleton, turning it into ‘something abstract, taking away more and more information, but ... maintaining the inherent tactile core, so the form is still identifiable’. Using the smallest of details, such as the arching of a neck, he suggests rather than depicts a bird or mammal.
In 2009, Gudgeon’s monument Isis was installed in Hyde Park, London, the first such commissioned public placement there for over 50 years. As part of a project that brought together fine arts, ecological and educational concerns, the sculpture enabled Halcyon Gallery, the artist and The Royal Parks Foundation to raise £2.2 million to fund the Isis Education Centre – a new, environmentally friendly resource base with state-of-the-art classrooms, nature trails, a dipping pond, mini allotment and butterfly bank in the heart of the park.
In 2011, a 2 metre edition of Isis was presented to Prince Charles and installed at Highgrove Gardens, which surround his private royal residence in Gloucestershire. A further monumental Isis was chosen for the new sculpture trail constructed at America’s National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in July 2012.
A second magnificent sculpture by Gudgeon was placed in a prime central London location in October 2011: Search for Enlightenment, unveiled at Millbank by the River Thames as part of the Westminster City of Sculpture Festival. Reflecting the artist’s mystical approach to the immensity of the universe and humanity’s short time on earth, it depicts abstracted profiles of two human heads gazing into the skies. A small edition of the sculpture was presented to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh at the annual awards dinner at Buckingham Palace in July 2011, on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday, and a second public placement was made in January 2012 outside the luxurious development at One Hyde Park: The Residences at Mandarin Oriental, London.
In contrast to these urban settings, Gudgeon’s countryside park – ‘Sculpture by the Lakes’ at Pallington in Dorset – provides a peaceful backdrop for many of his large-scale finished pieces and houses convenient studio workshops. As it evolves, with extensive planting of trees and shrubs, grasses and bulbs, further sculptures are set strategically within the landscape, enhancing the surroundings and echoing natural forms. Since 2011, Gudgeon and his wife Monique have opened the venue for al fresco concerts, including classical music in Sculpture by the Stars, a summer jazz weekend and The Art of Music, which celebrated the start of Dorset Arts Week 2012.
Gudgeon has exhibited at several illustrious museums in the United States, including the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Wyoming, where he was selected as Featured Artist for the Western Visions exhibition in 2010; San Diego Natural History Museum in California; the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum in New Jersey; and the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin. In London, his work was shown in the group exhibitions Seeking New Landscapes and Wild Life and Sporting Life II (both 2011) at Halcyon Gallery as well as at the solo shows Isis (2009), Isis: One Year On (2010) and Search for Enlightenment (2011). In 2012 his work was put on permanent display at Halcyon Gallery.
In March 2013 Gudgeon opened Transitions, a major solo exhibition of new kinetic and abstract art works, at Halcyon Gallery. The artist describes this fresh body of sculpture, which he has been working on for some years: ‘At rest, the sculptures are elegant; they are a delicate exploration of the beauty of pure abstraction. Yet the unseen forces of nature can change that order to a series of random and unpredictable movements. Fluctuating air currents will move the elements of the sculptures in an infinite number of erratic ways that appear to defy logic, gravity and the laws of physics. They immerse the viewer as he attempts to impose logic and order on the unpredictable pattern of movement, much as we try and impose order and logic on the random nature of our lives. They reflect the human condition, which is why we relate to them.’ Works from the series were also exhibited at the KINETICA Art Fair (2013) in London.
2012 National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
2013 Transitions, Halcyon Gallery, London
2012 Simon Gudgeon, Permanent Sculpture Room, Halcyon Gallery, London
2011 Search for Enlightenment, Halcyon Gallery, London
2010 Isis: One Year On, Halcyon Gallery, London
2009 Isis, Halcyon Gallery, London
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2013 KINETICA Art Fair, London
2012 Art and the Animal, Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, Oradell, New Jersey, USA
2012 Birds in Art, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
2012 Western Visions, National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
2012 Mixed Exhibition, Halcyon Gallery, London
2012 Natural Abstraction: Susan Goldsmith and Simon Gudgeon, Diehl Gallery, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
2011 Autumn Exhibition, Halcyon Gallery, London
2011 Birds in Art, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
2011 Summer Exhibition, Halcyon Gallery, London
2011 Wild Life and Sporting Life II, Halcyon Gallery, London
2011 Animal Art Fair, Fulham Palace, London
2011 Seeking New Landscapes, Halcyon Gallery, London
2010 Birds in Art, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
2010 Western Visions, National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
2010 Art and the Animal, San Diego Natural History Museum, California, USA
2010 Sporting Life, Halcyon Gallery, London
2010 Wild Life, Halcyon Gallery, London
2009 Birds in Art, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
2008 Sculpture at Halcyon, Halcyon Gallery, London
2012 Isis, National Museum of Wildlife Art Sculpture Trail, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
2012 Black Swans, Search for Enlightenment, One Hyde Park, London
2011 Search for Enlightenment, Millbank, London
2011 Dancing Cranes, One Hyde Park, London
2009 Isis, Hyde Park, London
2007–present Sculpture by the Lakes, Pallington, Dorset, UK
His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales
The Duke of Bedford
The Duke of Northumberland
2012 Evelyn and Peter Haller Memorial Award for Sculpture, Society of Animal Artists exhibition, Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum
2007 Hunting in Art Prize, International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation