The Canadian Art Database

Hugh LeRoy
Montréal (from a taped interview, 27 March 1967)

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Four Elements Column, 1967
Fibreglass (epoxy finish)
18'H, widest diameter 73" smallest diameter 25"

Theories about the future of art like an Orwellian vision in which we are paid not to work, leave out the human element. There will always be certain human beings endowed with that magic energy that says it is essential for them to create something. Like the white-collar worker who runs home to turn the table leg on his lathe. He is so hung-up, he can't make anything else but a table leg. But the fact is that he is very much in love with the idea of the piece of wood that is turning, and the way the chisel bites into the wood. To justify this nonsense that he does in the basement, this hungry human being who wants to identify himself has to come upstairs with the thing he has just made and say: "Look, sweetie, here's a table! That's the difference between an artist and a white-collar worker: an artist would more probably come upstairs and say: "Hey, look at this piece of non-functional junk I just made!"

I have a vivid early memory of a parking meter I was making that had a round top. I had taken a piece of two-by-four and shaped it with a little coping saw. I remember the coping saw cutting too far into the wood, cutting into the stool under it. I remember that terrific "thickness" sensation. What I do now is just an extension of making parking meters really. I still get that thickness kick. I am really a carpenter at heart, except that I don't enjoy making doors or windows; I just enjoy making things, useless things, which happen now to fit into a social way of life called "contemporary art" by our fickie culture assessors. That is why I am against intellectualizing about art, especially about minimal art or sculpture, where such an elaborate framework of justification is demanded.

I am well aware that an artist can afford to identify himself with the overall art scene oniy when his own direction has already been established. Like so many other teen-age "misfits", I was sent to art school, where I was indoctrinated with the idea that you had to search for something unique, an identifiable style. It took me five joyless years to find out that that was so much nonsense. One day I saw Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman, and understood that art was universal, not unique. And so I began a private search for fundamental truth. Just as Miller understood humanity, I wanted to investigate and understand the elements of sculpture, I went back to making things.

My new consciousness led me to the theory of "form-resulting-from-force", which introduced me to the idea of the rational object; "object", because it did not quite fall into the "regal" area of sculpture, and "rational" because it was the result of a preconceived force on a two-dimensional surface or a three-dimensional volume.

Four Elements Column illustrates this theory of form-resulting-from-force. The first "element" is the cylinder itself; the second is a perpendicular slit; the third is compression, and the fourth is a twist. Because I was disciplined throughout the making of this piece by the natural and inevitable results of force, I could push the twist no further without distortion and could take the compression only so far before the inside curve became irrelevant. Observing this, I came to realize that Four Elements Column is more of an organic event than either a rational object or a static geometric statement. In one sense, it is an event suspended, and could spring back into what it was before.

I don't believe, as some artists do, that collaboration with other artists or with scientists is the answer to today's problems in art. I feel that the essential nature of art is oneness or aloneness. I am convinced that the heroic quality of all great art of the past was achieved because one man's libido was involved. l suppose the only thing that l really took with me from art school was a teacher's remark that "art is a work of love".

leroy portrait

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