Paul Mount British, 1922-2009
The sculptures of Paul Mount display the cool geometries of classic modernism and something much less urbane - more like the firm-footed vitality of Yoruba wood-carving. From his large, wood sculptures of the late 1950s through to his prolific series of abstract, cast-iron and bronze works from the 1960s onwards, to the mirror-like pieces in stainless steel he combined a passion for formal clarity with an instinct for sculptural power and presence. Paul Mount created a distinctive fusion of these qualities.
Paul Mount's quiet demeanour belied a prodigious creative output.
He produced architectural designs, painted, published novels and was an accomplished pianist. His sculpture was clearly influenced by the structure of Baroque counterpoint. I like form for its own sake, he once remarked, whether it's in sculpture, design, music, architecture or painting.
Paul Mount was one of the last sculptors in a tradition stemming from Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. He was alos one of the last of those British artists whose careers were interrupted by the Second World War - and once free to work again, never really lost their sense of a world to be made anew through art.
For Paul Mount, sculpture expressed an essential human dignity.
The way that two shapes relate, he observed, is as important as the way two people relate.
Paul Mount was born Devon, where he attended Paignton School of Art. He went to London where he studied at the Royal College of Art until he was called up for war service in 1941. He served in the Friends Ambulance Unit in North Africa and then France where he had his first, formative encounter with Romanesque sculpture. Paul Mount married Jeanne Martin, a fellow RCA student in Paris in 1946. Returning to the Royal College of Art, London, he painted portraits and urban landscapes. From 1948 he taught at Winchester School of Art.
In 1955 he took a job in Lagos, Nigeria, setting up an art department at Yaba technical institute. Starting with just an empty building, he designed the furniture and equipment, and recruited students. His work at Yaba - one of the achievements of which he was proudest - led to two contacts that shaped his career. To ensure students learned marketable skills, he employed a wood-carver from Benin. Before long he was experimenting with sculpture - smooth, standing forms in iroko or ebony, reminiscent of Barbara Hepworth. His furniture designs, meanwhile, resulted in commissions from an architectural practice. By 1960 Paul Mount was producing large-scale architectural works, such as his screen wall at the Swiss embassy in Lagos.
The need to create surfaces that deflected the heat while allowing air to circulate - the opposite of modern western architecture's love of glass and light - helped to form Paul Mount's sculptural idiom. His cast-iron and bronze works often seemed to project a robust shield around their airy, inner spaces. Another possible African legacy was his refusal to waste anything. Many of his works in metal were fabricated from waste from previous sculptures.
In 1962 Paul Mount returned to England, settling at Nancherrow, near St Just-in-Penwith, Cornwall, where he was to spend the rest of his life. Paul Mount conceived his sculpture in relation to the landscape, in which it is often sited and probably best viewed. His fascination with machinery, however, led him to develop more angular, industrial forms than other Cornish modernists, closer to those of the Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida, whom he met in France in the 1970s.
In 1965 Paul Mount held his first London shows at Drian Gallery and in 1975 he had a solo exhibition at Marlborough Fine Art. In 1976 Paul and Jeanne divorced and Mount married the painter June Miles. In 1998 the couple had a joint exhibition at the Penwith Society of Arts in St Ives.