Nick Hornby's mind-bending sculptures reshape history


You can get a crash course in Nick Hornby's work during a one-hour tour of London. The artist has installed three permanent sculptures across the city, metal silhouettes that start out familiar but change depending on your vantage point. At St James's, his triumphal horsemanship, based on Richard I, becomes an amorphous zigzag as you go round; His opinion of Caspar David Friedrich, while living in Kensington Wanderer becomes abstract; And a statue of Nefertiti doubles as an Albert Memorial.

All three are a clever combination of craft and concept, raising questions about power and the role of the monument. They are also feats of digital innovation. For example, Equestria started as a digital model written in Python. It was then disassembled into individual components to be laser-cut from metal, then assembled by fabricators. “It was a lovely, seamless connection between concept, digital processes and mechanical fabrication – 165 pieces were manipulated into a six-and-a-half tonne object,” says Hornby from his studio in northwest London. “But when people look at it, they don't see it at all.”

“I like to think that one of the distinguishing features of my work is its ambition to capture anyone's imagination, not limited to the art world; Attempting to address complex ideas in simple English. Anyone would recognize the gait of the person on the horse and react to how I manipulated it.

White abstract sculpture with images of a human body overlaid in spheres on a white pedestal in a white room

resting leaf is from a set of autobiographical works created using hydrographics – each resin sculpture is immersed in a wet medium containing an image transfer.

Photograph: Benjamin Westoby

This kind of techno-conceptual wizardry is Hornby's calling card. Preferring screen rather than sketchpad, he uses 3D modeling as the foundation for abstract sculptures that reference the art-historical canon and challenge notions of authorship – works by Hepworth, Brancusi, Rodin and others. Distorted mashups of; Michelangelo's profile david Extending to a point, legible only from above.

He began making life-size terracotta figures in school at a young age, while his classmates worked on simpler pots. “But then I went to art school, and it was like, I don't want to do a pastiche of Rodin. I wanted to be a part of the future. I wanted to be innovative,” he says. “So I jumped on the technology.”

At London's Slade School of Fine Art, where he enrolled in the late 1990s, Hornby moved in a new direction. Attempts were made in the video; a semester at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he joined the artist-hacker collective Radical Software/Critical Artware; and musical experimentation with Max MSP, an object-oriented programming language employed by Radiohead in the early 2000s. But it was only after completing his master's degree in his thirties that his career took its current shape.

“It's really changed my relationship with technology in a big way,” he says. “I got really frustrated with people saying, 'Wow, this is really cool. How did you do that?' Because I find that question really boring. I'm more interested in the question, 'What does it mean?'” So, over the past decade Hornby has eliminated “any form of human subjectivity,” he says. . Wires and screens were obscured, rough edges erased with laser precision. It is better to invite questions related to substance rather than process.