Roderick Tye: The Human Presence (2015)
Exhibition and events
28 September -18 December 2015

The viceral nature of human existence comes alive in art and death in the first major re-examination of the work of Roderick Tye.

"These brilliantly animated busts and portraits are perfectly complemented by actual body parts, much like those used by Tye as models for his work." ― Tabish Khan, 'The Top 5 Art Exhibitions in London' Fad Magazine, 6 November 2015 

This exhibition was the first major re-examination of the work of British artist Roderick Tye (1959-2009), a sculptor passionate about the visceral nature of human existence. Curated by fellow artists from the Slade School of Fine Art Edward Allington, Neil Jefferies and Gary Woodley, with the UCL Art Museum team, The Human Presence was an experimental installation of Tye’s work.

A collaboration with UCL Pathology collections and the Anatomy Laboratory (UCL Department of Cell and Developmental Biology), the show presented Roderick Tye’s figurative sculpture and drawings alongside teaching samples, never-before-exhibited human tissue specimens and large-scale anatomical drawings by Charles Bell, UCL’s first Professor of Anatomy. These displays located Tye’s painstaking approach as part of a wider Slade ethos of looking, observing and the value of culture in the making of art.

The exhibition themes were further explored in the public programme, which included the return of UCL Art Museum’s popular Life and Death Drawing workshop led by Dr Chiara Ambrosio, UCL Science and Technology Studies with life-model and pathology specimens. See more information here.

More about Roderick Tye

After terms at Lanchester Polytechnic, Ravensbourne, and then Leeds Polytechnic, Roderick Tye came into his own while a postgraduate at the Slade (1982-4). He later remarked that the course allowed him to fully explore not only the making of art but also the importance of culture to this process. This was particularly worthwhile at a time when many artists were increasingly obsessed with originality and veered away from working with the human form directly. His resolve was strengthened at the British School in Rome, fuelling his desire to understand and use the human form in a way that harnessed the power, theatricality and raw emotion he felt and saw in the Baroque splendour surrounding him. His use of red wax for his disembodied heads and fragmented torsos, for example, allowed him to speak eloquently of flesh and blood, and convey the living presence of the human figure. The works displayed in Roderick Tye: The Human Presence came from his late 1980s period, as well as from his time as a teacher at the Slade in the 1990s, when he continued to probe what we’re made from and what it means to be alive.

In the latter years of his life Tye turned his passion for fishing to his main focus and became a fly-fishing expert. Applying his knowledge as an artist, he published Colour Theory for fly-fishing, featured in the exhibition. The artist's obiturary is accessible here.

More about the exhibition

The exhibition is curated by Edward Allington, Neil Jeffries and Gary Woodley from the Slade School of Fine Art, in collaboration with UCL Art Museum, UCL Pathology Collections, and the Anatomy Laboratory (UCL Department of Cell and Developmental Biology). Displays feature largescale anatomical drawings by Charles Bell, UCL’s first Professor of Anatomy in the 1830s and samples from UCL’s teaching collections, including wax models and human tissue remains. UCL CULTURE Highlights from the Museum’s collections included a presentation drawing by Henry Tonks, student copies after the Old Masters, and small bronzes of Greco-Roman greats. The exhibition offered a rare opportunity to see the products of Tye’s later passion for reviving Irish Fly fishing techniques, all in keeping with the theme of life and death and his intense belief in the sheer beauty of being alive.


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