Taking things out of context â€“ recasting a functional object in a non-functioning capacity, letâ€™s say â€“ is a familiar trope of twentieth-century modernism that the work of James Capper both addresses and amends. Capper makes new objects that suggest existing ones (hydraulic pumps, cutting blades, ploughs), and by doing so generates a new creative function for that object: the making of marks on a surface. These, then, are drawing machines, their actions gouging or scraping new forms in a receiving material, and sculptural forms too, their forms abstracted, almost modernist. The Ripper Teeth act as locomotive elements attached to an existing machine: thrown out in front of it into deep or difficult terrain, they pull the machine along by dragging. The motions of the Teeth are recorded, both in the earth itself and, often, through video documentation, as components of a performance of sorts. That performative element brings up the organic allusions central to Capperâ€™s work. These are, unmistakeably, claws, dinosaurian in their shape and implication of hugeness.
James Capper Nipper (Long Reach)
Painted steel, hydraulics, plaster
130 x 32 x 80 cm/ Base: 130 x 40 x 100 cm
Nipper (Long Reach) is like a crabâ€™s claw designed by an industrial engineer; both threatening and familiar, it parallels organic and mechanical movement in a mutually enlivening way. Capperâ€™s works treat the mechanical as aesthetic. Their occupation of space is an active one, their traces â€“ in soil, on stone, in air â€“ the delicate and deliberate marks of a drawing hand.
Text by Ben Street
James Capper and the machines that make art
January 7th 2013, by Nancy Durant, The Times
Capperâ€™s first public survey exhibition is awash with machines built by an artist with an engineer for his hero
Itâ€™s not often that you find yourself admiring an artistâ€™s welding. Painting, yes. Sculpting, often. Welding, not so much. But in James Capperâ€™s studio it is all about the welding. Or the hydraulics. He loves hydraulics.
July 15th 2011, by Nick, Bold Insiders Blog
Machines rule James Capperâ€™s world. In his work, Capper shows his deep fascination for mechanical industry together with a childlike, playful attraction to objects and toys. It is difficult to understand the assumed function of his mysterious devices. In the open air, visitors come across Capperâ€™s sculptures trying to carve their way into the ground or shape the grass, and realise how clumsy the movements of his mechanical monsters are. Inspired by 1960s earthmoving prototype machines, realised by pioneer engineer Robert Gilmour LeTourneau, James Capper sets up an original investigation into the possibilities of mechanical power.
As the artist himself explains: â€˜Ripper Teeth is an ongoing development of the machines which are used in conjunction with my sculpture and installation. The machines are a product of the overall development of the land-marking/mark-making aspect of my work. The Ripper Teeth function as cutting, scoring and shaping tools that will eventually (after tests) be connected to a number of new and different kinds of land-marking machines, like Ripper (2008) and Tread Toe (2010). In Bold Tendencies 5 will be an installation of six different kinds of Ripper Teeth sitting on six light tables. The sculptures will reflect the scale of the machines to which they are fitted and act as a vision of how marks could be made on the earthâ€™s surface. The teeth will sit clumsily on the light tables, highlighting their manufactured but organic curving forms.â€™
A Triple Exhibition at Hannah Barry
23rd September 2011, by Seana McCroddan, Dulwich On View
The natural flow of the galleryâ€™s interior leads you to the next room, which is home to â€˜Fleetâ€™, by British artist James Capper. This exhibition is comprised of dozens of small sculptures of raw, industrialized machinery. They are explained a â€™three dimensional plans for as-yet-unconstructed machinesâ€™.
They are so simple and do not have a colour or detail to them. As you study these works more closely, your focus is o the machine and its possible function, because itâ€™s not always immediately obvious, not intuitive at first glance. The sculptures were made from all types of building material, from pieces of wood to fabricated metal, to thoughtfully constructed pieces of cement. The smaller sculptures lined a shelf on the wall while larger works lay positioned on the floor.
Ripper Teeth in Action- James Capper
1st November 2011, by Lita Doolan, Daily Info
James Capperâ€™s collection of drawings at Modern Art Oxford are perfect for the busy but intrepid art lover. Site specific work can move mountains and indeed James Capper has designed Ripper Teeth from workshop and concept Drawings, as shown on the walls, to teat open the earth around Rose Hill.
James Capper: Ripper Teeth in Action. Modern Art Oxford. August 2011
August 2011, by Jem Hunt, Art and Architecture Journal Press
James Capper, Ripper Teeth in Action, is part of Modern Art Oxfordâ€™s Art in Rose Hill commissions programme. Inspired by the aesthetics and actions of large-scale construction machinery, Capper employs a set of â€˜ripper teethâ€™ of his own design to work on large sections of land around Rose Hill, Oxford. In a series on live performances throughout August the artist will attach these custom-built fittings to an excavator vehicle in order to explore their capacity for mark-making. Capperâ€™s activities respond to the regeneration of the neighbourhood, paralleling some of the earth moving techniques already taking place in the area. Both machine aesthetic and mechanical processes are central to Capperâ€™s work, which take as a source of inspiration the numerous experimental and prototype earth moving machines developed by Robert Gilmour Le Tourneau in the 1960â€™s.