Tower of Strength, steel, 2013
The industrial components that make up this piece are the epitome of solidity: dark, steel, apparently produced for a ruthlessly utilitarian purpose. And yet, freed from their context within the machine, and re-assembled, Nathalie Hambro has given them a fresh delicacy. Set up in what at first seems a capricious arrangement we are able to examine their basic form for its own sake. The imprinted text is now meaningless and yet without a use the component letters become beautiful: the shape of the font, the spacing of the numbers, the depth of engraving, all take on an unknown significance. And what of the shapes created by the alignment of the parts. The ‘almost-symbols’ of the inverted V-blocks play against the now abstract forms of the newly defunct language inscribed on their surface.
Despite the title of Nathalie’s work, it hints at vulnerability. On examination the placing of the parts is not as inevitable as it might seem. Is the arrangement symmetrical, as a lazy glance might have assumed? Is the casting as solid as it appears? The poise which is revealed on repeated looking generates a similar wonder as the delicate stamen of a lily, preserved inside its sturdy bell. By peering inside we can only wonder how far the elegant groove of the screws dyes continues into an almost sexual interior of the piece. The same might be said of the exterior functional parts: the curve and tip articulated in the teeth of the milling wheel articulate a kind of sensual danger. In this sense beauty serves the practical, and is the bi-product of necessity. Just as the gothic scissor buttress is not longer needed to prop up our medieval cathedrals, so the strength of these items is no longer required to power a forgotten industry. As a result we can however see them for what they are, as objects. And in that re-constructing form Hambro lends her materials the personality that makes her title real.