I’ve always though of bronze as, well, bronze-coloured. Not a colourful metal at all. But Koji Hatakeyama’s new exhibition at the Erskine Hall and Coe gallery has made me see bronze in a new light – or maybe a new set of colours.
Hatakeyama comes from Takaoka in the north west of Japan’s Toyama Prefecture, an area with a long history of casting Buddhist altar fittings in tin and bronze. His work is part of a tradition that goes back four hundred years, using modern techniques but traditional methods. This is his first solo exhibition in London and comprises thirty-seven new works in cast bronze, an alloy of copper and tin.
The sculptures are made by pouring molten metal into a mould – a dangerous job as the melting point of bronze is 1200 degrees centigrade.
Hatakeyama’s work feature surface patinations which represent elements of the Japanese landscape. The colours are not painted on but produced by the patination of the bronze. In patination chemical solutions are applied to the bronze which react with the surface to corrode it. The different colours are the result of different chemicals reacting differently to the heat.
Patination has been used as a decorative technique on metals by many different cultures for thousands of years. Today the colour of a sculpture is often an integral part of its artistic intention. Artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore were very specific about the contrast and arrangement of patina on their sculpture.
The show is at the Erskine, Hall and Coe gallery in the Royal Arcade on Bond Street and runs until Friday 3rd of July. The gallery is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm.