James Lake explores his process for a new sculpture entitled ‘Youth’


On a promise to his youngest son that he would make a sculpture portraying him, James Lake has been ruminating on ideas examining the optimism of youth in relation to the current environmental, political and cultural landscape. We publish the artists’ notes accompanying the first two sketches in this series, with more to come this autumn

Thoughts as I go. These notes are trying to capture an essence of when, why, and how my ideas come together.

Part 1: 13th June- G7 summit – Sir David Attenborough presses leaders to show ‘Global Will’ to tackle climate change.

My youngest son is watching a science-based programme on TV, and they talk about how children are more creative than adults; they think outside the box whereas adults have acquired strong practical decision-making skills to navigate adult life. Children have less inhibitions about thinking outside of the box creatively.

Looking out my window I see that I am surrounded by long grass. The council is letting the grass grow this year to encourage wildflowers and bees, which is great, but it is not so easy for me to play football with him. For context, I am also thinking about how to disguise the armature of the ‘Youth’ sculpture before I start making it as this technical problem might make me think in a different way. I was offered some Perspex rods to make the armature less visible in the feet/stand section. This was a very generous offer, however I wondered if there was a way to incorporate the challenges of my building process into the design. Could its short comings promote something different?

A pen and ink drawing of a young boy reaching for the sky. He is mid-air, reaching for some stars. Writing on the drawing outlines possible materials for each part of the resulting work

‘Youth’ – preparatory sketch for sculpture by James Lake


Part 2: 17th June, it is late, it is near 1am, I’ve been up while my middle son finishes his course work.

I’m reading the news and come across an article which talks about how the earth is warming up, nearly twice as much as it did in 2005. I am thinking about the armature and the aesthetics for the sculpture, particularly how to contextualise the act of jumping up and reaching for the stars (origami stars) and jumping up and out of something.

This led me to the jumping out of the long grass idea (as an environmental metaphor) for hiding sustainability, climate, and economic issues. The grass could be square, possibly a box from which paper grass grows, maybe with text written on it from a base made from broken coffee cups embedded in it.

In the long grass

1)     To react to a difficult problem by doing something to make sure that people will forget about it rather than trying to solve it.

2)     Kick something into the long grass!

To refuse to deal with something immediately, often because it will create problems.

The long grass presented against an orange and hot sky came to mind, with the sculpture jumping in the mix of the visuals.

So, what is the jumping figure, what is ‘Youth’ doing? He is not stuck, but jumping up figuratively, creatively, and metaphorically away from the historical baggage to grab something new with hope and optimism.

The optimism and spirit of creative thoughts shown through the drawings he has made. They could be photocopied and printed onto brown paper and fixed into the surface detail of the form.

A coloured pen and ink drawing of a young boy reaching for the sky. He is mid-air and reaching for some stars.

‘Youth’ – preparatory sketch for sculpture by James Lake

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