Ways To Make A Ship Walk

27 Sep 2018 – 27 Oct 2018

Regular hours

11:00 – 17:30
11:00 – 17:30
11:00 – 17:30

Cost of entry


Hannah Barry Gallery

England, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • 12, 37, 63, 78 (alight at Peckham Rye)
  • Take the East London Line to Peckham Rye station.
  • Regular trains to Peckham Rye station from London Victoria, London Bridge and Blackfriars

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27 September -  27 October
James Capper
WAYS TO MAKE A SHIP WALKHannah Barry Gallery

4 - 7 October
James Capper
TREADPADSFrieze Sculpture
Regent’s Park, London

These 12 new large-scale drawings have been made by James Capper as he fabricates his first WALKING BOAT sculpture, MUDSKIPPER, which will be shown and launched in London in the spring of 2019. Included in the exhibition is a full-scale plan of MUDSKIPPER, a mobile sculpture some 9 metres in length and weighing 12 tons, which walks using two hydraulic legs, each with a disc-shaped TREADPAD “foot”.

The ingenuity of biological lifeforms has long inspired advances in human technology, and the contemporary world of engineering and mechanics continue to look to the organic world to solve complex technical challenges. As early as the year 231, Chinese army commanders had modelled an “artificial cow” for the efficient transportation of food to faraway troops. Fast-forward to 2018, we have designed soft-robotic pneumatic systems with the exact anatomy of a living octopus, designed to reach difficult surgical zones or to overcome complicated obstacles in search-and-rescue missions.  James Capper’s ambitious, multi-scale WALKING BOAT sculptures - researched, drawn and developed over the last 10 years - are embedded within this narrative: the reciprocal dialogue between the organic and the technical world, between biomechanics and the human. 

The history of evolution is echoed in James Capper’s frequent aesthetic and conceptual reference to the organic or biological, pitched alongside an interest in technology, innovation and systems of heavy industry. His unique sculptural language evolves along different modular chains he terms ‘Divisions’, a network of interrelated sculpture families each grouped according to their specialised application. His WALKING BOAT sculptures are part of the ‘Offshore Division’, designated for use on and off water. 

The colonisation of land by aquatic lifeforms has a long evolutionary history. Beginning some two billion years ago, multiple genealogies chart the rise of species that erupted after the macro-ecological jump onto the earth, as a once uninhabitable world now flourished with life. Protected by a newly formed ozone layer, early invertebrates and amphibians bravely leapt into the dark terrene, their newly encountered ecosystem soon demanding a chassis capable of symmetric, mechanised movement.

Responding to this history, James Capper has developed MUDSKIPPER, an amphibian sculpture fully mechanised for movement across land and water, as well as related sculpture components that function as both attachment parts for MUDSKIPPER and autonomous sculptures. For the ‘Offshore Division’, these component parts are called TREADPADS, disc-shaped feet which permit the full-scale sculpture to be mobile. TREADPAD diameter depends on the size and weight of the larger sculpture it carries, and the shapes patterning the surface of the pad - diamond, convex, frustum - are determined by the terrain on which it is active - rock, sand, shingle… Two pairs of TREADPADS are shown as part of Frieze Sculpture, and are on display in Regent’s Park until 7 October.

 Removing himself from the utilitarian lexicon of professional engineering and the deterministic narratives of evolutionary biology, Capper’s functioning works stand as an aesthetic representation of the complex character and relationships between technology, organism and craft. Recalling the eccentric personas of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo or Wes Anderson’s Steve Zissou, James Capper’s vision for his WALKING BOAT sculptures confront the precarity of humanity’s technological desire, articulating the mutual cooperation required between bio-mechanic and organic lives.

James Capper’s drawings are an important part of this process. Producing large numbers of drawings of all kinds - from concept drawings (defining, developing and outlining new ideas and concepts for sculpture), technical drawings (line or filled-in drawings used to work out how the sculpture moves) to presentation drawings (spectacular, often large-scale coloured drawings showing the sculpture in its complete form) and in-action drawings (complex drawings showing the sculpture in movement across space and time). Through this, every realised sculpture accumulates a large number of drawings from conception to completion, and in the case of WALKING BOAT, many drawings have been made to inform the sculptural process - dating as far back as 2008. The twelve new drawings shown here represent the conceptual, aesthetic and technical evolution of MUDSKIPPER, departing the artist’s mind and studio, advancing into the world as a fully realised mobile work.

Friday 19 October, 7 pm
The Art of EngineeringJames Capper at the Science Museum
with Katy Barrett, Curator of Art Collections for the Science Museum

Thursday 1 November, 8.30pm 
Serpentine Cinema: On Earth, Structure and Sadnessincluding
Blue Frame by James Capper and Alex George
part of Serpentine Cinema Autumn/Winter season

James Capper (b. 1987, London) studied at Chelsea College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. Solo presentations of his work include RIPPER TEETH IN ACTION at Modern Art Oxford (2011), DIVISIONS at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2013), SIX STEP at Rio dell’Orso with ALMA ZEVI for the Venice Biennale (2015), PROTOTYPES at CGP London (2016), ATLAS A SPOLETO! / TELESTEP A SPOLETO!, Anna Mahler Association project for the Mahler & LeWitt Studios & Festival dei Due Mondi, Spoleto, Italy (2016), SCULPTURE & HYDRAULICS at The Edge Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts, University of Bath (2017) and JAMES CAPPER at Bathurst Art Gallery, New South Wales, Australia (2017). The youngest ever artist to be awarded the prestigious Jack Goldhill Prize for Sculpture from the Royal Academy of Arts, London, he has major sculpture projects in 2018 including: AEROCAB with 3-D Foundation in Verbier, Switzerland, Blue Frame with Forth Arts in Sydney, Australia, and MUDSKIPPER, WALKING WORKBOAT in London.  WAYS TO MAKE MOBILE SCULPTURE, a comprehensive publication of drawings, was published by Albion in 2017, alongside an exhibition of drawings and sculpture at Albion Barn, Little Milton, Oxfordshire.

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Exhibiting artists

James Capper


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