Jeff Lowe’s dramatic abstract monuments

The British artist’s fluid sculpture, influenced by classical opera, is presented at London’s Pangolin gallery

Artist Jeff Lowe at his home and studio, The Lime Works
Artist Jeff Lowe at his home and studio, The Lime Works

Jeff Lowe is a British sculptor who has been quietly pushing the boundaries of abstract sculpture for 40 years. During this time, he has been included in exhibitions at respected institutions including the Hayward Gallery and the Serpentine Gallery in London, Peggy Guggenheim in Venice, and the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. Trained at St Martins, and a former student of Anthony Caro and William Tucker, Lowe is an artist with his own very recognisable take on the modern. This week marks his second show at London’s Pangolin gallery, which runs from January 15 to February 22.

Jeff Lowe with one of his large-scale aluminium sculptures
Jeff Lowe with one of his large-scale aluminium sculptures | Image: Steve Russell Studios; image courtesy of Pangolin London 2019
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Lowe folds and curves sheets of cut aluminium into layered abstract shapes. These freestanding pieces resemble something between a crown and potato peel. What they do is reconsider ideas around volume, space, shadow, depth and shape. The work feels light but it’s weighty and held together with strong metal nuts and bolts. Often Lowe colours the inner or outer sides of the metal sheets in swathes of yellow, peach, deep blue or pastel pink. The work feels intimate – like looking inside a body – but is expansive at the same time. 

Jeff Lowe’s Alceste’s Aria, No 21, from the series In the Close Distance (2019)
Jeff Lowe’s Alceste’s Aria, No 21, from the series In the Close Distance (2019) | Image: Steve Russell Studios; image courtesy of Pangolin London 2019
Lowe preparing for Spring Show I at the Serpentine Gallery in London, 1978
Lowe preparing for Spring Show I at the Serpentine Gallery in London, 1978 | Image: Jorge Lewinski

The large pieces on show include Almira’s Aria, No 19, Alceste’s Aria, No 21 and Ottone’s Aria, No 20, made in 2019. All reflect Lowe’s influence of classical opera – in these particular cases, George Frideric Handel and Christoph Willibald Gluck. This musical element shapes the fluidity in their architectural shapes. These are objects with their own demanding, centre-stage song to sing. The pieces were made at his home and studio The Lime Works, an exceptionally fascinating space built as a water-purification plant in 1937. The Lime Works, like Lowe’s current cylindrical sculptures, fuses history and the industrial in unusual ways. 

A print from the In the Close Distance collection, on show at Pangolin gallery
A print from the In the Close Distance collection, on show at Pangolin gallery
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There will also be smaller pieces and jewellery on show at the exhibition. The artist does not see these as maquettes but equally valid sculptural works (prices for the sculptures range from £8,000 to £22,000; the “wearable sculpture” is priced from £650 to £700). Lowe has also worked with The Print Studio in Cambridge on a series of new vibrant, colourful screen prints (£650-£950). There is something very British about the heritage in his work – a touch of the industrial coming through with humour, wit and beauty.

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