Eduardo Paolozzi

Eduardo Paolozzi via The Scotsman

Feature image: Eduardo Paolozzi and his work via The Scotsman

“A feature of our culture, not a feature of the sculpture.” – Science, Technology, and Society as seen through Michael Faraday and Eduardo Paolozzi

“It takes the power and insight of an artist such as Paolozzi to see this and produce an image that begins to express what absence means.”

What does it mean to critique science, to balance praising scientific giants of the past while critiquing the standards of the present? Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi balanced this dance in both his sculptures and his illustrations. A pioneer of his time, Paolozzi set the standard for pop art in the early 19th century. His contributions were so vast that he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1989. 

Paolozzi_Ventilation_Sculpture_IV_
Paolozzi Ventilation Sculpture IV via Wikimedia

About the Artist

Eduardo Paolozzi was one of the most influential sculptures of the 20th century for his time. Born in Edinburgh in 1924, he grew up surrounded by advertisement art in his Italian immigrant family’s ice cream shop. He spent his time outside of school helping run the shop until he was well into adulthood. 

In 1940, Italy declared war on the United Kingdom. However, he was placed in an internment camp for three months for his Italian heritage. In those three months, he lost his uncle, father, and grandfather. After the war, Paolozzi went to art school. His childhood shop's bold colors, timeless graphics, and dimensional typography inspired his early designs. He grew acquainted with fine art trailblazers like Georges Braque and Constantin Brâncuși, who influenced his style in sculpture, incorporating found objects in his art’s message. 

Paolozzi, I Was A Rich Man
Paolozzi, I Was A Rich Man's Plaything via Wikipedia

Paolozzi’s illustration I Was a Rich Man’s Plaything is said to be the first to contain the word “pop,” making him one of the originators of the pop art movement. The 1952 work was a part of his “Bunk!” Series in London upon the founding of the Independent Group. Shortly after, Paolozzi became a sensation for his screen prints. The surrealism of his collages echoes inspiration from early acquaintances in art school, and his graphics took on a human cubist form. 

His artistic pioneering did not stop at screenprinting. After attending sculpture classes at over half a dozen institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Cologne, he began working on his sculptural projects late into his career. 

Paolozzi, KMM
Paolozzi, KMM via Wikipedia

On “Faraday”

One of his final works, Faraday, was made in 2000 as an homage to the man who discovered electromagnetic induction and as a critical commentary on current mindsets about the sciences. Michael Faraday was responsible for discovering the electromagnetic field, whose inventions and discoveries paved the way for the modern technological world and humanity’s current techno-centric socioeconomic structure.

Eduardo Paolozzi, Faraday
Eduardo Paolozzi, Faraday via Wikipedia

The bronze sculpture depicts the identity and legacy of historical scientists. The loops throughout the body of the sculpture are visual representations of electromagnetic induction, emphasizing that no matter what Michael Faraday did in his life, this is all he would be remembered for in history; it is a part of him. The sculpture’s stature sits proudly, its hands gripping onto the side of the copper throne. The emotions of the face, the asymmetry of the face, and the woven nature of the two half-bodies. 

The poem

While the sculpture in its entirety elevates the stature of Michael Faraday and elevates the importance of his scientific contributions, it also serves as a warning to the dangers of solely relying on the hard sciences. There is a poem on the side of the statue. An excerpt of T.S. Elliot’s The Dry Salvages is engraved in the copper, a tale about humanity’s place in the neverending march of time investigated through a metaphor about traveling in a boat. The excerpt reads:

Fare forward, travelers! Not escaping from the past 

Into different lives, or into any future;

You are not the same people who left that station

Here between the hither and farther shore 

While time is withdrawn, consider the future 

And the past with an equal mind.

Recreation of Eduardo Paolozzi
Recreation of Eduardo Paolozzi's studio via Wikipedia

The expert highlights humanity’s hyper fixation with forward progress, a constant desire to propel society further through innovation. This fixation, however, holds us from reaching any sort of destination. Paolozzi used this excerpt to highlight this facet of the sciences that exists even today.

The sciences serve as a commentary on how we understand the world around us. Art expands on the meaning—we can publish journals with as much hard science as we want, but their implications and history will always be human. If we only aim to move forward, then will we ever reach a destination? What is the destination?

Paolozzi, Newton Blake
Paolozzi, Newton Blake via Wikipedia

Art keeps the history of humans, and sculptures created by masterminds such as Paolozzi remind the masses of that every day. Michael Faraday’s discoveries did not go unnoticed by the eyes of scholars, scientists, and artists. His discoveries, intertwined with the artistic history and creative vision of Eduardo Paolozzi, elevated philosophical questions about our perceptions of scientific progress. Sure, there are about a dozen different ways to say, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” but Paolozzi’s work highlights that we need to find, at the bare minimum, a trajectory and a vague idea of a destination. 


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