(b. 1945)

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The Tribe That Held the Sky Up (2013)


David Kemp is a British artist born in London in 1945. He currently lives and works in west Cornwall.

David Kemp is best known for his assemblage sculpture and installation and public art pieces. For more than 20 years, he has lived and worked on the exposed Atlantic coast of West Cornwall – inspired by the natural landscape, and by the remains of the tin-mining industry carried out there since medieval times. Living among the ruins, he collects fragments, piecing together curious connections between past and future. His collections of 'Relics and Reconstructions from the Late Iron Age' have often been exhibited as spurious museum pieces. His assemblage work has been compared to the work of archaeologists and ethnologists, is often humorous and makes interesting comparisons between past and emergent mythologies and technologies. He finds material for his work in rich seams of junk, appearing here and there at boot fairs. Driven by his own apocalyptic and subversive vision, he makes sculpture from the disregarded bits and pieces left by successive consumer boom. These remains point out the awful truth – that we value trash and are seduced again and again by the trumped-up new. Technology that is phoney, or only half understood, is grasped at for answers to our needs. In pursuit of the largest thing, it becomes impossible to tell real technological advances from the dead-ends. By making what might have been, or should have been invented, he mirrors universal human weakness.

David Kemp's involvement in Public Art begun when he was artist in residence in Grizedale Forest in Cumbria in 1981. Here he learned the important links between site and content, which he has applied to the many large scale, site-specific sculptures he has built around Britain in the last twenty five years. In the 1980s he built a series of large 'post-industrial' sculptures in the North East, such as 'King Coal' on the Durham moors. In 1987 he built the 'Navigators', a monumental bronze and steel kinetic sculpture on the Thames near London Bridge. He has built site-specific sculptures for rural and urban spaces; outdoors and interior; pedestrian areas, parks and cityscapes. More recently he has undertaken a series of large sculptures for the Eden Project in Cornwall. Most recently he has been involved in the Redruth Town Regeneration Programme and has installed several bronze and mosaic sculptures in the town. Works are held in numerous public and private collections worldwide including Arts Council of Great Britain, Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Glasgow Museum of Modern Art and the Eden Project among many others. Exhibitions and residencies have been extensive and international. David Kemp is represented by Anima-Mundi.