|dc.description.abstract||Relief sculpture can be understood as a form in two and a half dimensions, between drawing
or painting and sculpture. Relief is also a renewed area of artistic practice, long in decline and
marginalized in the 20th Century. It engages with the archaic and the physical and as such is
counterpoint to the proliferation of disembodied digital images in contemporary culture.
Relief is an art form well suited to re-examining our past from under the shadow of sculpture
and painting, not least because it is characterised by ambiguity and dualism and the
compatibility of its formal character with themes of conflict and antiquity.
This paper discusses the persistence and value of relief sculpture in the 21st Century and
analyses the historical dualities of relief and how these dualities resonate in contemporary art. I
argue that the scattered presence of relief sculpture in contemporary art no longer designates a
strict formal discipline but rather expresses both disjecta membra (fracturing) and a transitional
zone in visual arts. Contemporary relief is analysed through the work of artists who have
explored dualities within this transitional space: works by Thomas Houseago, Anselm Kiefer,
William Kentridge and Matthew Monahan, and through key works from my own studio
research, including publically sited works from 2015 to 2018.
This paper explores how the transitional zone of contemporary relief echoes the duality
inherent in historical (classical) relief. It examines this zone with the superimposition of
dualities that include the physical and the image, the archaic and the contemporary. Relief is
characterized by dialectics, and the coexistence, reconciliation or synthesis of opposites. It is a
manifestation of Edward Soja’s thirdspace (1996) —a shared response or methexis synthesizing
history with sensorial and conceptual (or physical and imaginary) space.
The research draws from Theodor Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory (1970) and his observations and
historical perspective across art forms, arguing that the nature and fate of genres inform
understandings of relief sculpture in contemporary art. Perspectives of time and space as
described in Jacques Ranciere’s episodic approach to history are complemented by Henri
Lefebvre’s and Edward Soja’s subsequent analysis of space. Other philosophers and historians
referenced include Walter Pater (1839 to 1894) and his biographer Lene Ostermark-Johansen
who form a part of the historical perspective on relief and its position in art. Adolph von Hildebrandt (1847-1921) and Rosalind Krauss assist in comparing relief before and after
cubism, which I argue is critical in understanding relief’s renewal through its revised approach
to materials coupled to spatial enquiry.||en_US