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Sculpture (MA)

Alex Young

Alex was born in London, 1996 to a South African mother and Anglo-Irish father. A pivotal moment that occurred during an annual trip to her mother’s homeland, with its vibrant and dramatic landscapes, led her to pursue a career in art. At the time she was studying Philosophy at the University of Bristol, but changed paths and moved to Scotland, graduating with a first in BA (Hons) in Painting and Printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art. The contrast between Glasgow’s industrial landscapes and places of natural beauty surrounding the city influenced her work, particularly her blending of natural remnants and discarded artificial materials. Painting continues to inform her sculptural practice; craftsmanship, gesture and the handmade are emphasised in an attempt to confront fast-paced, throwaway culture. Exploring diverse aesthetic approaches and mediums - sculpture, painting, sound, moving image and installation - she creates material metaphors that allude to folklore, speculative fiction, autobiography and medical science. Her work examines the tension between creation, destruction and renewal, with her studio acting as a site for excavating and transforming forgotten relics and residues.

Image of artist sitting in a forest at dusk.

A recycling of the present permeates my assemblages of natural materials and cultural artefacts. I collect discarded leftovers and remnants of nature: ash, tin cans, pulverised prescription pills, twigs, earth dug up from an industrial ruin. My work repurposes these remains, alienating from their past to form new narratives. Materials help me to make sense of time. Growth, transformation and the inevitable decay or destruction of matter generate my sculptures. I share this preoccupation with time, flux and the everyday with Arte Povera artists - Giuseppe Penone, Luciano Fabro and Janis Kounnellis are among my favourites. Their assemblages of mundane and craft materials, and fixing of time in transient materials is what I strive for in my work.

I work with metal because it’s strong and durable but endlessly forgiving and flexible. For me this process is like working through trauma - the failures and scars remain, but the metal transforms into something more interesting than before. I’ve been reflecting on feelings of hope and shame. My research of medieval music led me to the shame flute, an instrument of public humiliation used to punish “bad musicians”. I created my own shame flute using a bronze, a material rooted in ancient technologies. I’m interested in the late bronze age, an era that saw the rapid decline of vast empires. Historians believe the arrival of steel weapons, a lack of tin needed to create bronze, famine, climate change and displacement of peoples led to the collapse of these civilisations. This theory echoes current global supply chain shortages, war and environmental crisis. I combine bronze and steel in my sculptures to reference these historic transitions, creating relics that exist between past, present and future.

I’ve been casting medication in bronze: Keppra and Sodium Valproate prescribed for epilepsy and other “neurological disorders”. These pills have become a metaphor in my practice for the control of people that society classifies as disordered. I’m interested in the link between epilepsy, altered states of consciousness and the divine. In recent years there has been a resurgence of paganism and I’m curious about how ancient spiritual practices can be a way of reconnecting to the earth and regaining control. Rituals provide me with a sense of order in chaos, a way of demarcating time that sustains my practice. 

My practice examines 21st century materiality, blending physical, tactile media with digital film and sound. Contact microphones that record material surface vibrations have enabled me to record the sounds of my bronze sigils cast from twigs. I've sampled these into compositions that explore hidden voices of objects. By drawing connections between ancient history, an era of alchemy and magic, to the present age of science, I explore the idea that society is still rooted in archaic systems. Fragile forms are transmuted into relics and portals, as my work aims to portray the eerie uncertainty of life.

A frost-covered otherworldly sculpture in the early morning light surrounded by trees.
Jesmonite, burnt twigs, tin cans, air dry clay, plaster, soil, ash, welded steel.
Close up of the frost-covered sculpture in a field, dim light.

A rupture in the Daisy Chain

A rupture in the daisy chain:

Cracks flow, only to freeze again.

Atoms split, never to meet again.

Heat rises and dust collects;

I am but a speck of dust.

Wind carves the leafless trees

and the spindly cobwebs.

Skeletons cling to moonlit dew

in the frozen twilight, perpetual blue.

The fires will soon burn out

"And what if?" -

The only certainty,

Precious and uncut -

"What then?"

Then there will be no morning chorus,

No comforting crackle.

Then there will only be dusty trails

and hollow trunks,

drained of wisdom:

Dead memories.




150 x 100 x 100 cm
A still image of a digital projection onto painted canvas, depicting a wall of arches in snow at twilight.
Another still image depicting a ring of fires lit in the frozen twilight.
A close up image depicting the ring of fires contained within tin cans.
A darker close up image depicting the ring of fires contained within tin cans.
A hanging bronze twig sigil, colours are blue-green.
Inorganic Daemon 129 x 26 x 2 cm Cast bronze, steel wire, copper nitrate.
A hanging bronze twig sigil, colours are red brown.
Inorganic Daemon 249 x 26 x 2 cm Cast bronze, ferric nitrate.
A tree trunk lies across the floor. Gold leaf covers an opening and the areas where its branches have been cut.
Wishing Tree75 x 127 x 50 cm. Tree trunk, gold leaf, cotton yarn and flannel, brazilwood dye.
A shame flute made from a forked branch cast in bronze.
Shame Flute30 x 45 x 5 cm Cast bronze, annealed copper.
Photo of a life-sized coffin-shaped cage covered in empty used blister packets.
Welded steel, copper mesh, recycled Keppra packets.
A close up reveals rows and rows of used Keppra packets.
A forest of tin cans resembling silver birch trees orbit a central sculpture. A fiery cloud of plastic mesh hovers above.
The central sculpture made of cracked clay, plaster, burnt twigs & tin cans resembles an atom, moon or a meteorite from space.
Close up photo revealing branches shooting out from the tin can trees, with metal nails growing out from the branches.
Another close up shows the cloud of red, orange & purple mesh stitched together and supported by a curved metal frame.
A final photo shows the overall structure of the installation, which resembles a forest or scaffolding structure.
Close up of central sculpture showing burnt craters. A desiccated plant hovers out of one of the tin cans.
A close up of the central spherical sculpture showing the surface of cracked clay and burnt twigs.
Launch Project