COLLAGE ON VIEW
Sebastian Thomas: Golem
at Lot Projects in London, England, United Kingdom
16-19 December 2022
A Golem is a creature formed from inanimate materials such as dust or earth and is brought to life by means of a charm or a combination of letters forming a sacred word. Creating a golem was a way in which medieval Jewish mystics could become closer to God. The Hebrew ancestor of the word Golem meant “shapeless mass” or “raw” material, connoting the unfinished human being before God’s eyes. In modern Hebrew though it’s more commonly understood to mean “dumb” or “helpless”, a metaphor for a kind of mindless entity that serves man. The Golem becomes a helper, a companion or a rescuer. In many stories though, the creature runs amok and becomes hostile to its creator, serving as a cautionary tale against the hubris of man thinking they can create life.
In this exhibition, Thomas has used the symbol of the Golem as a vehicle with which to create a new body of sculpture, collage and painting. Thomas’ practice has long centred around the accumulation and assembling of printed materials, found objects, discarded packaging and building materials to create a host of creature like images and sculptures. Through paying attention to the detritus of human activities on earth his practice has sought to engage with the vast machine of industrial energy, processes and materials that are used to create the ceaseless flow of objects and images that society consumes and inevitably discards. Through the processes of collaging, assembling, moulding and casting he looks to imbue these abandoned things with new life and meaning giving them personalities of their own.
In 2021, Thomas was the recipient of a Develop Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England. He traveled to Scotland and spent an extensive period gaining in depth knowledge of metal casting, ceramics and metal working on residencies at both the Edinburgh and Scottish Sculpture Workshops. Following this he built a furnace and set up a small foundry near his studio in Reading. The exposure to these new processes, has led Thomas to become fascinated by the creative power inherent in transforming raw materials such as mud and metal.
It’s in this moment that Thomas became aware of the ancient parable of the Golem. It seemed not only a perfect metaphor for the human need to create meaning from humble materials but also for the desire as a society for exponential progress and convenience. In this moment of worrying dislocation from our material reality the processes of vitrifying clay into ceramic and smelting old iron into new forms feel ever more vital and meaningful. Perhaps as a civilisation we have created our own uncontrollable and hostile Golem, that has led us to the precipice on which we find ourselves. More than ever the Golem is a pertinent symbol of the hubris inherent in mankind.
(text adapted from materials provided by the artist)
Broadway Market Mews
London E8 4TS United Kingdom