Patrick Hurst: 'I once punched myself in the face repeatedly because the steel ‘just didn’t want

Patrick Hurst MRBS is a sculptor who lives and works in the South East of England.

Can you tell us about the inspiration and concerns behind your art practice?

I find fabrication more exciting than traditional reductive or mould-making processes. I enjoy the process of adapting mass produced materials to create something unique from ubiquity. Once, while tidying my office, I was stacking a wad of A4 paper one corner rolled down like a wave. This was the starting point that became the final form used in my sculpture ‘The marriage of Njörd and Skadi’, symbolising the home of the god of the sea Njörd. This was also when I had the revelation that a massive variety of physical materials that we as humans produce comes in the form of a sheet. Paper, fabric, wood, plastic, metal, glass, etc.. This to me is a great source of inspiration because it means I can experiment with an idea in paper and it would directly be translatable to any other material in this spectrum.


Looking at your work I was struck by how your abstract sculptures fit in so well within the natural environment. There is something very organic about them. Do you think about this relationship with nature/green spaces when you create your work?

I was brought up a stone's throw from Henry Moore’s home and studio, Perry Green. Visiting it as a child (climbing on the work) and throughout my life (not climbing on the work). So I’ve always seen grand, abstract sculpture as much at home in the natural environment as in a gallery or museum.I find the natural environment to be quite abstract. If mother nature was an artist she would be definitely be an abstract expressionist. She creates spectacular displays for all to see but also some moments that are reserved for the individual who was at the right place at the right time and who cared to look. This relationship of the individual and nature has been point of influence throughout my career. It was, in fact, one of the starting points and a driving factors in the composition and design for my “Mirror Form” series. I imagined the piece as if it was floating in forest, the mirrored exterior camouflaging the the vibrant interior with the trees around it, making you have to move around to discover more about it.

Materials and process seem to be a big part of what you do. Why did you choose to focus on steel and bronze (I haven’t actually widely used bronze yet)?

I fundamentally love materials. The look, the touch, the sound, the smell. The more you know about a material and how to work it the more interesting I becomes. One of the reasons I’ve used stainless steel so heavily in my work so far is that, even if I think I know it, I’m always surprised by it. Materials have character not just characteristics. I once punched myself in the face repeatedly because the steel ‘just didn’t want to bend that way’. My other draw to these materials are the processes used on them, most notably are welding and polishing. Polishing is a tiring and time consuming process that you have to earn through progressive refining and buffing. The way your body moves back and forth with the polishing machine creates an internal rhythm that calms the mind and the process becomes a very meditative act. The same can be said for welding. You’re enclosed in a dark helmet with nothing but a small pool of shimmering light from the molten metal to focus on. As you may imagine, after a day in the studio, I can be very Zen.


Do you think that there are enough opportunities for sculptors who are at the start of their career to show their work in the UK at the moment? Or is the medium/size of the work something that curators feel cannot always accommodate and require compromise? Was it something you had to deal with at the beginning?

No. I don’t. I’ve found that, in terms of curation, galleries are more often than not very interested in featuring sculpture in their exhibitions. They know the impact a good sculpture can make to a show. The problem, however, lies with the logistics. Artists are usually the ones to carry the associated costs for manufacture, transportation, insurance, etc. for 2D works this is minimal as you’d imagine. Whereas even a small sculpture can be delicate, heavy, and awkward to move, expensive to make and frequently require specialist equipment to manoeuvre. This can be very limiting to an artist at the beginning of his/ her career. There is a tendency, sometimes, from curators to select artworks by an established name instead of supporting young and emerging sculptors which could ultimately create a better show. This again means for sculptors at the start of their career, it’s harder to get the exposure that enables the production of new work. It’s the architect’s Catch 22, no one will trust you to build a building until you have built a building. 

What are you plans for the future? What’s next for your practice? I would like to add more experimentation and unpredictability into my practice. I am a painstaking and precise fabricator who can produce my ideas accurately. However, I find myself attracted, ironically, to the relatively new development in sculpture production; removing the artist’s hand. The idea of establishing the parameters then allowing the artwork to produce itself. I don’t want to give too much away now, but I’m thinking …explosions and machines!


For is next project Patrick will be part of NordArt 2017 – Kunstwerk Carshütte, Büdelsdorf, Germany, which is on until October 2017. You can find out more about Patrick's work at and on Instagram : Pathurst.