Jonathan Owen is best-known for re-carving and reinventing defunct marble statuary in an attempt, as he puts it, ‘to reactivate the object through transformation rather than destruction’. This approach seems especially relevant at a time when the subject of public monuments is being reconsidered, questioning their attributes of permanence and power.
The current exhibition at Edinburgh’s Ingleby Gallery includes reworked busts of once powerful men, although at its centre is a new sculpture based on a life-size, allegorical figure of Navigation, which formerly stood as a symbol of empire and exploration and is now reduced to a pile of interlinking chains snaking across its plinth on the gallery floor.
Alongside this group of new sculptures, Owen presents new ‘eraser drawings’ – a kind of two-dimensional carving of old book pages made by working backwards through layers of ink from blacks through greys to white, gradually removing tone from the surface of the page to delete the foreground subject and subtly re-form the background. The most recent series focuses on images from the history of cinema, erasing the foreground figures of Hollywood stars and reshaping them into the inanimate details of the scenes they once inhabited.