July 31 - September 19, 2010
A stroll through the garden at Ralph Hicks’ country home in Creemore, Ontario yields a refreshingly whimsical display of wildflowers and herbs, stone carvings and bronze castings. Step into his studio, however, and the figures you encounter there instantly grab your attention and demand serious contemplation.
The six works that make up Entangled are the centerpiece of Hicks’ exhibition. Though they follow the same theme, each stands alone in its complexity, antagonism and tension. Modeled in wax and cast in bronze, the figures are a statement of man’s strength and humanity’s weakness. One figure balances on a foot with the other leg outstretched, one mopes on the ground, another gazes straight ahead with feet firm on the ground, and all are entwined in a rope without beginning or end. As the figures attempt to loosen the tension, some get lost in despair and others remain defiant, but each figure tells a story of individual strain; the rope is a metaphor for the complexity of today’s life.
Hicks’ use of bronze casting allows him to show the fine detail of the men’s faces and intensity of their body movements, while simultaneously representing strength and durability. It is obvious what Hicks wants to achieve with his work, but less obvious whether there is a distinctive answer to be found. The pieces hint toward a solution; loosen the tension here and there, and the rope may fall away. But the passion, force, concentration, focus and stress of the encumbrance erases all simplicity. Eventually, the line between aggression and oppression becomes completely blurred and one is left with a very literal and perplexing example of human struggle.
In addition to the works from the Entangled series, the exhibit includes Hicks’ renderings of one of the most ill-omened creatures around; the crow. The life-sized black birds stand together in small groups and pairings, each individually crafted for uniqueness and personality out of plaster. On their own, the crows make for a light-hearted and comical display. But stand back, and the relationship between the looming crows and the entangled men becomes almost scavengeous. It is as if the crows are watching over the figures, ready to swoop in at the first sign of defeat. Whether you prefer jovial character of the crows on their own, or the nefarious feeling that they lend to the exhibit as a whole, you will certainly be drawn into Hicks’ entangled imagination.