Imbued with an appearance of scientific rationality, Conrad Shawcross's sculptures explore subjects that lie on the borders of geometry and philosophy, physics and metaphysics. Attracted by failed quests for knowledge in the past, he often appropriates redundant theories and methodologies to create ambitious structural and mechanical montages, using a wide variety of materials and media. His forms are inspired by different technologies including the nautical and the audio-visual as well as a range of natural forces. His mysterious machines and structures remain enigmatic, filled with paradox and wonder. Some have an absurdist melancholy feel, while others tend to the sublime.
Shawcross has also experimented with ideal geometries and topologies; these constructions are conceived as systems, sometimes modular, sometimes mechanical, which could be theoretically extended infinitely into space. In these and other sculptures, Shawcross pays tribute to some of the great pioneers and analysts, and considers specific moments or figures from the past. Paradigm (Ode to the Difference Engine), 2006 references the life of Charles Babbage; Space Trumpet, 2007 is inspired by the history of early acoustic mapping; while Slow Arc Inside a Cube, 2008 takes its inspiration from the scientist Dorothy Hodgkin's discovery of the structure of pig insulin.
More recently, Shawcross has developed the scale of his practice, taking on architectural spaces with work that combines epic scope and poetic grace. Timepiece was a major new commission for the Roundhouse in 2013 in which Shawcross transformed the iconic main space of this historic London building into a vast timekeeping device.
Shawcross was born in 1977 in London, where he currently resides and works. The artist has undertaken numerous residencies, awards and commissions: in 2016 to mark the inauguration of The Francis Crick Institute in King's Cross, Shawcross has created a permanent public sculpture ‘Paradigm’, located at the entrance of the institute; in 2015 a new series of permanent sculpture was unveiled in Dulwich Park following a commission by Southwark Council advised by the Contemporary Art Society to replace works by Barbara Hepworth that were stolen in 2011, and the monumental site-specific installation The Dappled Light of the Sun was displayed in the Royal Academy's Annenberg Courtyard as part of the Summer Exhibition 2015. The Ada Project, an ongoing series of musical commissions between Shawcross and leading contemporary composers, was conceived for the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013) and has since travelled to venues in Tasmania, London and Hong Kong. Shawcross was one of three contemporary artists invited to create works inspired by Titian's masterpieces for the project Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, an ambitious collaboration with the National Gallery and Royal Ballet for the Cultural Olympiad. He was Artist in Residence at the Science Museum, London, from 2009 - 2011, and his first public realm commission Space Trumpet, installed in the atrium of the refurbished Unilever Building in London in 2007, won the Art & Work 2008 Award for a Work of Art Commissioned for a Specific Site in a Working Environment. In 2009 he was awarded the Illy prize for best solo presentation at Art Brussels.
The artist has had solo exhibitions at institutions including the New Art Centre, Roche Court (2015); ARTMIA Foundation, Beijing (2014); MUDAM, Luxembourg (2012); Science Museum, London (2011 - 2012); Turner Contemporary, Margate (2011); and Oxford Science Park (2010). His work has recently been exhibited nationally and internationally as part of Art Out Loud, Chatsworth House, Derbyshire (2015); Proportio, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice (2015); Summer Exhibition 2014, Royal Academy, London (2014); Light Show, Hayward Gallery, London (2013), travelling to Auckland Art Gallery (2014 - 2015), MCA Sydney (2015), Sharjah Art Foundation (2015) and Benaki Museum, Athens (2016); the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); Journeys: Conrad Shawcross and Tavares Strachan, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (2011); and 4th edition international sculpture exhibition, LUSTWARANDE '11 - RAW, Park De Oude Warande, Tilburg (2011).