There was a time when pretty much all sculpture was weighty intractable stuff that always felt as if it had been wrestled into submission. Those days may be long gone in a flurry of provisional and found materials more often than not thrown together with what at least looks like less than careful aesthetic consideration. So it comes as something of a surprise on entering the Boulder exhibition by Denis O’Connor at the New Court Gallery in Repton to see solid pieces that are obdurate and stubbornly there. In his case the central – and title providing – motif is that boulder that crops up in most of the works on show in this satisfying and delightful show. O’Connor is one of a generation of Midlands sculptors that have made most of their artistic careers making works that have entered the public realm and consequently like many of them opportunities to view studio pieces, unfettered from commissioning restraints, have been relatively few so this is an event not to be missed.
Not that the artist hasn’t been able to maintain a vision that carries through into a third decade of practice where a number of tropes suggest ideas around journeys and mystical narratives that, albeit un or at least sub -consciously derive from a wry humorous nod towards his cultural heritage. Here too the hard won wrestling of steel into forms that are seemingly inimical to the process is another metaphor that adds an intensity to several of the works, that and the trick of raising up the obviously solid and weighty material to seem, if not weightless, light and airy as if lifted by the breeze. It is fair to say that here is an artist at the top of his game, a serious but jocular work out, with plenty of rewards for the viewer in this excellent space.