Nigel Hall

Chinese Whispers


Nigel Hall is one of Britain‘s leading sculptors. His work explores contrasts – and their mutual interdependence. His dialectic exploration of difference results in paradoxical sculptural configurations that evoke „weightless mass“ and „dynamic stillness“. Continuing on his path toward ever greater formal reduction, he pursues forms of increasing simplification and purity, allowing his pieces to be informed by „stilling and distilling“.


In his sculptures and charcoal drawings, the artist focuses on the relationships between form and void, plane and projected space, movement and stasis, expansion and contraction, as well as light and shadow. He explores his motifs in series which are often derived from basic geometric forms such as the circle, the ellipse, or the cone. The title Chinese Whispers refers to the essential aspect of transforming an idea as in the children’s game where a whispered message is subtly changed down the line. It could also refer to the incremental changes that occur to works over a period of time which result in major shifts.


Hall‘s most recent sculptures in the Chinese Whispers series show complementary forms in dynamic interplay. He transposes two leaf-like conic elements in opposite directions and varies the correlating  volumes, juxtaposing darker, more hermetic interiors with more open, lighter ones. He also varies the way in which the objects overlap or penetrate each other.


Some of his sculptures adopt a delicately balanced, elliptical form. Most of the asymmetric objects hinge on the rotation of the creative element, the S-shaped dividing line. In Chinese Whispers VII, for example, Hall locates the main volume on the right-hand side of the axis. Depending on one‘s point of view, the sculpture seems to rotate left, in the direction of the bulbous S-curve – or right, in the direction of the expanding „leaf“.


The basic form of Hall‘s Chinese Whispers sculptures emerged when he explored the mathematical symbol for infinity, which resembles a horizontal figure 8. His most recent drawings are also concerned with curvilinear forms and explore ways in which one form merges with another, or is contained within the other. It should be noted that Hall does not consider his drawings to be preliminary sketches for his sculptures, but as independent, albeit closely related to his sculptural creations.


The artist tends to work alone in his large studio, gradually forming his ideas by hand to achieve perfectly shaped sculptures in birch wood. More recently he has had pieces cast in bronze. His longstanding response to landscape where he makes observational drawings continues to inform both drawing and sculpture.


Hall studied and tutored at the Royal College of Art, London. On the occasion of his 2008 retrospective at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield, the Royal Academy of Arts published a handsome monograph by Andrew Lambirth, Nigel Hall: Sculpture and Works on Paper. Hall is included in numerous public collections, among them the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Gallery in London, the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Australian National Gallery in Canberra and the Kunsthaus Zurich.


Ruth Littman



Press text Chinese Whispers (pdf)

Press text Southern Shade (pdf)

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