Bill Wroath |

Ideas and Concepts

I have always been fascinated by scale. I can vividly recall looking at the palm of my hand as a young child and having a sense that it could be any scale, boundless and vast or conversely an infinitesimally small Lilliputian world. These experiences must have occurred at a very young age, because I remember them more as physical sensations rather than thoughts.


Jigsaw puzzles were a big part of my formative years too and I spent hours putting all the  pieces together and being intrigued by how each was a standalone and how they were also an integral part of the ‘bigger picture’.

The local butcher’s window had large ceramic (or they could have been plaster) models of sheep, pigs and cows and I was fascinated by how their bodies were divided up with lines drawn on them, fragmented like the puzzles I played with at home with my elder sister.

The intrigue of those butcher’s models stayed with me and later I would recall them. In the early eighties I worked for a company of ornamental plasterers, as a sculptor in clay and plaster. I used to cycle to work at that time and early in the morning I would pass Bence the Butchers, where I often witnessed them carrying in sections of carcasses. Hung on hooks and stiff as boards, often splayed out on timbers, they echoed scenes of torture and crucifixion.

At the time I was sculpting cuts of ham and sides of beef, as a commission in the early eighties. They were wrapped in muslin and hung as dressing in the kitchens of National Trust properties.

Some time later in answer to a call for proposals, I considered the idea of working with plaster casts of sections of a cow to reassemble it into a partially completed sculpture of the animal with the seams still evident.

In a moment of lateral thinking I thought about using the actual cuts of meat and that was the forerunner of the idea, that became The Hams of Today are the Pigs of Tomorrow submitted for the performance market of the Marina Abramovic Live Art Symposium. The work was eventually performed in the old slaughterhouse at the Royal William Yard Plymouth, having been banned from appearing in the covered market by Plymouth City Council.

This concern with constituent parts, is a theme that runs through my work and is perhaps most prevalent in work from 1994 onwards, when much of my practice was concerned with

subatomic physics, creating an interplay between matter as described by quantum physics and our everyday experience of corporeal embodiment of space and the interconnectedness of the infinitesimally small and cosmological immensity. This can be seen in works such as Learning to Wave, About Emptiness and Just Passing Through, in which the trajectory of sub atomic particles are referenced and used to delineate the body’s surface, defining the empty space within and the energy involved.

Night Glass was devised to surprise the viewer by confronting them with images of stars in the interior of a body, normally the realm of the microscopic. This produced, a ‘bouncing’ between micro and macro. Although Fall was predominantly an ant-war statement, it dealt with the massing of constituent parts into a whole, which in this instance invited a different reading and meaning by the viewer.

Fall appeared to be on first inspection to be a pile of autumn leaves but up close it could be seen to be fallen soldiers, (25,000 plastic toy soldiers painted in various shades of blood red) drawn up into a pile with a rake.

The result was an ambiguity of interpretation, which threw up conflicting and yet compatible possibilities for the viewer.The implication of the frailty and impermanence of the human body present in Fall, can also be seen in Planters a Sci-art Commission produced for the Eden Project in 2002/03, funded by the Welcome Trust. Soil particles, bound together temporarily by plant roots were encouraged to grow in the form of human hands, cast from life from the gardeners at The Eden Project.

This was an ephemeral installation and was intended to last only for as long as the plants thrived and the outcome was eventually composted and returned to the earth.

A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.

- Albert Einstein

Copyright © 2016 Bill Wroath. All rights reserved.

Bill Wroath |