Spinoza monument Amsterdam

Rob Lee sculpture - Spinoza monument

I don’t usually get too excited about public statuary, but the monument to the philosopher Spinoza in Amsterdam is more imaginative that most.

It’s also well positioned by the pedestrian and cycle bridge across the Zwanenburgwal canal, just before it joins with the Amstel river, a stone’s throw from the popular Waterlooplein market, and just around the corner from the National Opera and Ballet hall.

Of Spinoza himself there is not really much to see, as his entire body is draped in a cloak decorated with birds and roses.

Poking out above and framed by a splendid wig, is his face. Whether it’s a good likeness of the great man, or not, his thoughtful facial features are well modeled and radiate a certain presence.

The birds are rose-ringed parakeets, an exotic species which have become familiar all over Amsterdam, having first settled in Vondelpark a few decades back. They symbolise the immigrant nature of the city in the 17th Century, and that it still is today.

But my favourite part of the monument is the black marble icosahedron which symbolises the the universe as a model, created by the human mind.

The whole arrangement is mounded on an elliptical plinth, conveniently low enough to sit on.

You can even lean back against the icosahedron, and perhaps contemplate the quote etched into the plinth edge beneath you: ‘The purpose of the state is freedom.’

A good place to pause for a while, and perhaps the presence of the great philosopher and the icosahedron will help sharpen your own mind, and your philosophical thoughts.

Monumzent to Spinoza, Zwanenburgwal, Amsterdam. Sculptor: Nicolas Dings 2008.

Posted in Sculpture

Claes Oldenburg and his Toothpaste tube

Claes Oldenburg and the giant toothpaste tube

Photo by Hans Hammarskiöld



















I love this photo of Claes Oldenburg carrying his giant toothpaste tube in Oxford Street.

It may not look it, but this was London during the ‘swinging 60s,’ at which time Oldenburg was one of the leading members of the Pop Art movement with his quirky soft sculptures.

It looks like someone has randomly snapped him, but the photo was taken by the photographer and fellow Swed Hans Hammarskiöld, and it was obviously done as a bit of publicity stunt.

If this was today I guess the woman would be carrying a brown paper shopping bag from Primark.




Posted in Sculpture

Brancusi’s studio

The Soho Mountains - Brancusi's studio

Brancusi’s studio at the Centre Pompidou














Brancusi’s studio.

There are many examples around the world of artist’s studios being preserved after their owner’s deaths, and becoming museums.

Some appear to have been left so abruptly that they give the unsettling impression that at any minute the artist will walk back in and commence working.

But there are very few examples where an artist’s studio has been meticulously reconstructed after their death, as has Brancusi’s Paris atelier.

Luckily for us Brancusi had the foresight to bequeath his studio — complete with all artworks— to the French state.

This was on the condition that it would be reconstructed exactly as it had been at the time of his death.

This idea would perhaps not work with every artist. But for Brancusi the relationship between his sculptures and the space they occupied were as important as the sculptures themselves.

Later is his life he ceased creating new work altogether, and concentrated on their relationship within the studio. In this way the studio became an artwork in its own right.

Skilfully realised by the architect Renton Piano, Brancusi’s studio is adjacent to the Centre Pompidou in Paris.


Posted in Artist's studios, Sculpture Tagged with:

Life Ladder (+ Seasaw)

life ladder mark II

Rob Lee sculpture — life ladder

Branches felled by an autumn storm provided the materials for this new Life Ladder.

Working with the natural twists and turns of the branches is challenging. I have to disregard my design ideas and work with what I have.

Having said that I am gradually getting nearer the shape I want to create, though not fine enough nearing the top, which should almost fade into transparency.

The idea is that we are presented with a human scale ladder, the first few steps could be functional. But as we climb we diminish in size until we eventually fade from existence, the point of transition between one world and another(?)

I placed the Sea-saw along side the ladder mainly for scale. It is a standard carpenters’ saw, which has been modified by the water-jet cutting process.

Posted in Interventions, Sculpture, Uncategorized

At-loss of the World

rob lee sculpture - At-loss of the World

The At-loss of the World, is play on words, and a book with no content (as yet).

I started drawing things with holes in a while back — shoes, hats, bags, books, people. Only recently have I connected it with the death of my brother, and the inevitability that we all must eventually cease to exist.

Some people believe in reincarnation of course, but I go with Bruce Lee on this one:

“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”

Posted in Collage, Interventions, Uncategorized

Handheld Device

Rob Lee sculpture

Handheld Device (sculpture re-worked in Photoshop)

When my son was little we were careful not to give him stereotypical boys toys for birthdays and Christmas.

When he was around four years old he was watching TV one afternoon — probably an old cowboy film — when someone produced a handgun and shot someone else dead.

My son immediately went upstairs to his room, emerging a short while later with a handgun made out of Lego, and very pleased with himself.

So there seems to be a deep rooted fascination with a compact hand held weapon with a trigger, at least with the males of the species.

This started out as a maquette for a sculpture called ‘Monument to a Lost Civilisation,’Rob Lee sculpture






















But shortly after I made it I had the idea to remove the base and attach a handle, making it more like a science fiction film prop than a sculpture.

I was also fascinated by all the weapons in the Pitt Rivers Museum, especially the old gun sets in boxes.

Rob Lee sculpture. Pitt Rivers Museum

The handle of this particular gun I have used for the photo montage.


Posted in Collage, Sculpture Tagged with: ,

Barbed Wire Cushions

barbed wire cushions — a new concept in home furnishings

Rob Lee sculpture. Barbed Wire Cushions















I found myself in the soft furnishing department of a ‘home improvement’ centre.

I began thinking about the idea of home, and comfort.

And thought about the almost infinite variety of cushions that have appeared in the world in the last few years.

This inevitably led me to think about the current refugee crisis.

Thousands of people who are literally carrying everything they possess on their backs, having left their war-ravaged cities and homes.

It’s a splinter in the ointment idea I know, but nevertheless I though it would be fun to make some, perhaps not with real barbed wire though.


Posted in Interventions, Sculpture, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

Umbilical Chord #1

the umbilical chord

Rob Lee sculpture - umbilical chord

Umbilical Chord














On one level just a play on words?

But the Umbilical Chord got me thinking: not only about how it might be represented on paper, but how it might actually sound.

Of course the human ear can only hear a certain range of notes.

Any number of which, combined together, form chords, whether they are pleasing to the ear or not.

The Umbilical Chord, by its very nature, must sound different from anything you’re ever heard before.


Posted in Drawings, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

‘Like’ The Present

Like the present

Rob Lee sculpture - 'Like' the present

There’s no Time, ‘Like’ the Present

“There’s no time like the present,” might well be another way of saying, Let’s get on with it now, it’s as good a time as any other – Just Do It, as the Nike slogan goes.

But I think it’s no coincidence that present (moment) can also be interpreted as a gift.

Life is short and time is limited, and we just might not get to do all the things we imagine there will be time for in the future.

We can never take anything for granted.

Posted in Drawings, Uncategorized

Machine for Extracting the Truth

Rob Lee sculpture - Machine for Extracting the TruthQuick sketch for Machine for Extracting the Truth in my Moleskine pocket notebook.

My self criticism and old school art school training tell me that it’s not a good drawing, and like many other rough sketches I always think I will make a better version one of these days.

But there is something honest about this sketch — the idea rendered quickly and unselfconsciously.

Would re-drawing improve the idea?

And in any case, it most likely came into being as a direct result of the subject?

Perhaps I should just accept my rather messy drawing style, and stop worrying if it is ‘good’ or not.

Posted in Drawings, Uncategorized


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