Tony Cragg constantly reinvents the language of sculpture, developing complex relationships between materials and forms. Perhaps facilitated by his scientific background, the artist succeeds in penetrating the essence of each material and, by shaping it, he almost seems to reveal a new molecular structure. His early works, dating from the late 1970s, draw on an infinite variety of contemporary detritus, including wood fragments and, especially, scraps of plastic. Urban refuse, such as discarded plates, bottles, vases, and toys, are endowed with fresh potential, becoming parts of new compositions. The artist uses these materials, arranging them in expansive designs on the wall, or organizing them on the ground according to color, creating post-industrial rainbows. In the early 1980s, Cragg began to use a much wider range of materials, creating a series of works based on the choice of a single one, sometimes shaped specifically for each project. The results are castings in bronze, iron, ceramic, and glass. Magnified and almost anthropomorphic images of laboratory containers and equipment used for distillation often recur in his iconography, underscoring the artist’s interest in the possibilities for a dialogue between art and science.
A layer of wax, almost like a skin, covers the mix of recycled domestic and industrial materials that make up Fast Particles, 1994. Careful examination of the two elements in the installation reveals their anthropomorphic structure, and they settle into images of ice-hockey players. The dynamic images transmit all the force of two athletes engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle for the puck or racing along the rink. The different dimensions of each element, one monumental, the other relatively small, add the illusion of perspective.