Borrowing instruments and strategies from the practices of the sculptor, the writer and the typographer, British artist Michael Dean investigates the relationship between text and physicality. Exploring the three-dimensional possibilities of language, Dean often ‘spells out’ his words through an alphabet of human-scale shapes, employing industrial and everyday materials such as concrete, steel, MDF, padlocks and dyed books of his writings.
While the transmutation of language is particularly important to Dean’s practice, his sculptures are not intended to be read as words, but rather to be identified as an element of language in their own form and imagined as a word or idea. He attributes a physical form to a personally developed language, based on a series of typographic alphabets, which he designs himself.
Addressing the timeless subject of human intimacy, references to the human body are recurrent throughout Dean’s works. Casts of his and his children’s fists, limbs and fingers with drilled out eye holes and tongue muscles appear among the forms. The latter of these is particularly emblematic of Dean’s overlapping interest in touch and language, since it is the part of the body which can feel, as well as taste, and which also moulds words before they leave our mouths.