BBC Culture

British sculptor Anthony Caro talks about his work

The British sculptor Anthony Caro has died at the age of 89. In footage from the BBC archive, he discusses his work – and his move into abstract sculpture.

“I swore that I'd never make an abstract sculpture,“ says Anthony Caro in this clip from a 1984 BBC programme.

The British artist - widely recognised as one of the world's greatest living sculptors – made his name when he abandoned figurative art in 1960 to produce large-scale abstract works constructed from steel and displayed directly on the gallery floor.

This year, an exhibition at the Museo Correr in Venice that coincided with the Biennale, covered a 50-year period of Caro’s career, including early drawings influenced by his teacher Henry Moore as well as the welded steel sculptures.

“I remember when my kids were young and I was making big yellow sculptures and they'd go past some road machine and say: ‘Sculpture, daddy!’,” reveals Caro in the archive film. He pinpoints what separated his work from the machine: “Mine was intended to be a feeling object.” 

The clip shows one of those big yellow sculptures, Prairie, appearing to hover above the Hayward Gallery floor in his 1969 show alongside key works Early One Morning and Titan.

Outside the gallery, Caro is filmed in a college courtyard engaging with students who were using one of his public sculptures as a bicycle rack - and in a marine scrap yard sourcing materials for a set of works made in the early 1980s. Next to tangled cable, deck hatches and giant anchors, he can be seen chalking marks onto rusting hulks for use in monumental pieces A Soldier's Tale and Alto Rhapsody. 

Marking another shift in approach, they were a departure from his earlier light, tubular pieces - but continued to unite constituent parts in a similar way. Caro has suggested that in his pieces, individual elements often come together like notes in a piece of music.

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