The 2009 Noble Sculpture Prize was awarded to Jonty Hurwitz for ‘Behind Me’.
‘Behind Me’ consists of a life-size sculpture of a man or, rather, a series of cross-sections of a man glazed onto a number of sheets of structural glass.
From the front and back we see the changing, three-dimensional shape of man much as we see the geographical contours of hills in an ordnance survey map. The resonance of such features in Colletta’s hilly landscape is profound: the work of art echoes and is in perfect harmony with the topography it resides in.
Viewing this sculpture from the sides, the man almost magically disappears: we see through the glass and the spaces either side of the individual sheets of glass to the trees that surround the glade the sculpture stands in. Man as geography and man in landscape is visible and then invisible depending on your point of view.
Jonty’s inspiration for the sculpture is closer to home. ‘Behind Me’ represents the way a child perceives parental support. As you move around the piece, you are presented with different images of a father figure, from present and solid on occasions to ephemeral and absent altogether on others, reflecting those times when even the most supportive parent is not there and one learns to be alone.
‘Behind Me’ is ground-breaking from a technical perspective. Jonty’s father was scanned from head to toe at a resolution of 300 microns and the images were then ‘compressed’ into 12 slices. Jonty then worked with leading glass manufacturers and engineers to devise a means of glazing the resulting ‘slices’ onto huge glass sheets with millimetre precision.
Besides the immediate aesthetic appeal of ‘Behind Me’, this exploitation of technology for artistic reasons was a major quality that attracted the Bernard Noble Sculpture Foundation’s jurors to Jonty’s work: ‘Behind Me’ seemed very appropriate for a ‘borgo telematico’, a beautiful medieval village that prides itself on its blend of ‘traditional’ beauty with the latest in modern home comforts and communication technology.
Jonty is clearly an unconventional artist: he took an engineering degree in Johannesburg before moving to the UK where he combined entrepreneurial careers in research, asset management, animation and internet banking with a profound interest in the creative arts.
This fusion of art and science brought Jonty early recognition: his awards include the British Interactive Media Association Award \(1998\), the International Visual Communications Association Award \(1999\), the Bentliff Art Prize, People’s Choice Award \(2008\) and the Interactive Media Award for Outstanding Achievement \(2009\).