During an art residency in South Korea Robert Harding met a creator from Taiwan and they spent long hours discussing art and philosophy before gradually moving on to Taoism, an Eastern philosophy which stresses the need to live in harmony.
"I am not religious, but I do like that philosophy of seeking a balance with nature," he says of the sculptures in his exhibition 'Shinto', which was opened recently in the Estudio de Ignacio del Río in Malaga city.
The display consists of half a dozen of Harding's creations from this year, in which he continues to search for the expressive possibilities of combining natural and industrial elements. The stones collected by the artist in the Axarquía, where he settled more than four decades ago after a long journey which took him from his native Britain to Africa and the Middle East, come into their own here. "I have always worked with nature and with our place in it," says Harding, standing in front of 'Shinto 1', a white stone from Maro on a Corten steel base. A mineral presented in the form of an offering, an inanimate object which nobody would have bothered to look at until Harding decided to transform it into a work of art.
"Stone is the most ancient element we can find in nature. I like to think that millions of people have passed it over the centuries and hardly noticed it was there. I believe there is a conflict in these works, but at the same time there is harmony in them as well," he says.
It is a tension emanating, for example, from the rugged textures of the stones from Maro and Torrox encased in smooth stainless steel mesh, presented as two pieces under the title of 'Shinto wall'.
"Here I play with the idea of possession, with the notion of a modest element which, when placed in the art dynamic, increases in economic value," says the artist, whose 'indoor' work coexists alongside his large-scale creations for public spaces. Unsurprisingly, Harding's sculptures form part of the everyday landscape of cities such as Seoul (South Korea), Lichtenstein (Germany), Villa Carlos Paz (Argentina) and Svalöv (Sweden).
He has returned from the landscape to the gallery, from nature to the workshop, as Carmen Cortés, a professor at Malaga university, explains in the text which accompanies the exhibition, which can be seen until the last weekend of this month.
"Perched in his own particular watchtower, high in the hills overlooking valleys of a spectacular natural beauty, with the sea rippling in the distance, Robert Harding creates fascinating objects, astonishing iron sculptures and beautiful polished reticules containing, for example, the black stone from Alnif which Harding brought from that part of Morocco. Stone is the soul and the voice of the ground," she says.