Daniel Silver’s Woman On The Mountain... is comprised of three sculptures, each one dealing with the formal possibilities of materials. The wooden figures in the work originated as African sculptures which, along with his table bases, were bought from a roadside flea market in Jaffa, Israel; this ethos of recycling or reusing objects to make them his own is integral to his work. By carving figures from the totems, Silver imprints a new identity on existing objects, overlapping his own narratives onto readymade history. Each sculpture is conceived as both an environment and a body.
Drawing from his interest in mythology, Silver’s sculptures convey a sense of timelessness; through their classic aesthetic and illusive narratives, his works engage with the cyclical qualities of history as departure points for making. Untitled was made while working in Italy. The Roman Empire modelled itself on ancient Greece, and its gods and sculptural styles were appropriated from Golden Age civilisation. Untitled poses a marble bust atop a painted wooden plinth, which is in fact a section of beam reclaimed from an old barn in France. With its smooth head and rough hewn ‘body’, the sculpture abstractly takes on animalistic form; a modern-day satyr rendered from layered global histories.
Silver’s white marble figures are made from discarded sculptures found in Pietrasanta, Carrara. In the area’s quarries and workshops, artisans carve marble sculptures based on classical works; borrowing from this tradition, the slightly contorted appearance of Silver’s marble figures is the result of his carving a new sculpture into the shape of another. This idea of evolution or interconnection is important to his work. “How we live and perceive the world isn’t so different from 1000 years ago,” he explains. This sense of rhythmic or mystical continuity is found in Untitled. A mythological figure, half bird or half human, lies child-like upon an altar, a humble deity or sacred offering, looking wondrously down upon the world.
For centuries Carrera’s famous marble quarries have provided the highest quality stone for great masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s David; this place was both a practical and conceptual inspiration for Silver. During his stay there, Silver learned stone-carving from contemporary masters, and Untitled is one of his first attempts. Slightly awkward and disproportioned – a result of the stone’s original sculpted form rather than his newly learnt skills – the portrait’s subtle flaws accentuate its fragile beauty. Perched on a plinth that crudely replicates the columns of classical Roman architecture, the figure becomes ‘housed’ in, and an embodiment of, a structure denoting her patrician repose. By juxtaposing materials of high and low value and radically differing tactility Silver creates a sensual tension in his work that bridges the exotic and familiar.
Silver’s most recent creations don’t rework existing sculptures, but rather use natural materials. In Untitled, the ‘head’ is a piece of black and gold Portoro marble; the base is made from found wood, and the ‘kerchief’ is assembled from collectable fabrics. These organic media each exemplify a certain ideal of perfection. The raw forces of the elements, sublime craftsmanship, or the simple beauty of utilitarian planks each contribute to a notion of value that is based neither in commerce nor aesthetics, but rather in an animistic quality in their physical matter. Untitled emits a sense of profound knowledge from within its modest material form.
Similar to the way Silver personalises his plinths to create narrative environments for his sculptures, Untitled is given character and purpose through its ‘wardrobe’. Made from onyx and steel garbed in fabric, Silver’s Untitled stands as a kind of ‘sculpture incognito’: it wears its assembled parts like a costume. Untitled is an abstract composition in its own right, however, its formal qualities are emulated by the suggestion of role, plot, or story. Its geometrical base of polished steel conveys all the mysticism of an ancient obelisk and the utopian future-monuments of modernism. Capped with a meteoric mass of onyx and sporting a rather fetching poncho, its design elegance is comically transformed into a character from another time.