2023/24 Sir Denis Mahon Sculptural Project Grant

The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation has supported a grant at City & Guilds of London Art School since 2020, created to honour the memory of Sir Denis Mahon, renowned collector and historian of Italian art, and to continue his legacy and lifelong interests in fine art, carving and conservation.

Intended to encourage and support students at the Art School to realise ambitious sculptural projects, the £5,000 grant has been open to submissions from second year BA Conservation, Carving and Fine Art students working with sculpture for use in their final year. In this fourth allocation, the Grant has been awarded to two outstanding candidates, who will share the £5,000 grant. The Art School is most grateful to the Sir Denis Mahon Foundation for their valued support.

Leigh-ann Cousins – Third year, BA Fine Art

“For my final project I plan to travel around UK to various natural locations, documenting, recording and collecting materials relating to the natural world to further my research into sacred geometry and the relationship between humans and nature.

While traveling I will be examining the properties of new fauna, flora and wildlife as well as collecting materials for the final project. In addition, I will create site specific works with these materials to be documented in situ and leading to them being adapted to work within an inside space. This will involve building circuits, applying code, management, and the pressing and cleaning of organic materials alongside the construction of box frames.

The work I create with nature develops throughout the experimentation with materials, therefore I do not have a prescribed design for the whole final project outcome. However, overall, I am planning to have a series of boxes that balance the human material and natural, each will have their own mechanic element consisting of either lights, movements or sound recordings. Currently my broad plan is that one work will be constructed from sea glass in a round box that will replicate water ripple through the glass either by using motors or lights alongside code. Another is to create a box out of leaves then to have lights inside casting a silhouette of objects onto the leaves.

This support will allow me to take the research trips I need to and allow me to purchase materials to realise the final art works.

As a collector Sir Denis Mahon had a longstanding interest in the materiality of objects, and their conservation. I feel that my works have evolved from the traditional genre of landscape, merging with contemporary possibilities of electronic kinetic elements, bringing together questions and challenges relating to the ephemeral aspects of materials from nature, and the romantic tradition of landscape and sculpture, that I hope Sir Denis would have approved of.”

Alexander Wheeldon – Third year, BA Carving: Architectural Stone

“Although it was initially the students’ drawings which attracted me to City & Guilds of London Art School, it was seeing that these students were learning the traditional, practical skills, which I didn’t even know still existed, that cemented my desire to apply to the Art School. I have a strong interest in learning traditional crafts the proper way, taking what was established in the past and building on it for new generations.

In my third and final year I intend to make two sculptures: One is a relief is based on an etching by Michel Dorigny, ‘The Dream of Saint Joseph’ that includes two figures in drapery and one a copy in the round of the classical bust known as ‘Clytie’ that sits in the British Museum collection. The Art School has a cast of this object that I can work from using a pointing machine. I chose these two particular subjects as I have an interest in both drapery and the figure, both subjects I have explored in my drawing and tattooing prior to joining the Art School. Having the opportunity to carve such objects and not just produce them in a drawing is an amazing opportunity I don’t want to let pass me by. I intend to focus entirely on refining my carving technique and I look forward to making the best possible use of the expertise of my tutors in cutting and carving limestone during my last year.

I hope to gain a strong understanding of the figure and drapery, as well as a thorough foundation in limestone-cutting techniques that will serve me well in a career in carving after I leave the course.

The Sir Denis Mahon Project Grant will allow me to use the highest quality stone for each piece, which will make a huge difference in the standard of the carving. Both these pieces have fine detail, and so require a hard stone with a fine grain that will hold its shape when working these small sections.

I believe as a collector of Italian baroque paintings, Sir Denis Mahon may have had an appreciation for the kind of imagery I will be using in my final year. While not made by Italian artists, both works lean heavily on the same classical foundations as those Italians.”

The Sir Denis Mahon Sculptural Project Grant is one of over 40 grants and awards available to students at the Art School.

The Art School itself provides some of the grants but many are funded by a number of organisations and individuals who value our commitment to championing specialist subjects, providing high levels of tutor contact time (about twice that of other London-based arts university courses) and continuing to deliver high standards of excellence. Over 40% of our undergraduate and postgraduate students usually benefit from one of our grants in an average year, which can be used to part-fund tuition fees or particular work projects.

If you would like to find out more about how you can support the Art School and its students, please click here or contact our Development Team on development@cityandguildsartschool.ac.uk.


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