James Balmforth, artist, on sacrificial anodes.
GB Why have you chosen these sacrificial anodes?
JB I chose these sacrificial anodes because their beauty is of a kind that I find compelling. A sacrificial anode attaches to buried or submerged metal structures and attracts corrosive forces towards itself, diverting them from the structure it is protecting, ‘sacrificing’ itself to preserve the larger structure. It is like an organ, a part of a greater whole. In nature life evolves many forms which are adaptations to their environment, ways of engaging with the outside or protecting against it, that enable it to somehow fit within it. The anodes are the product of thought, an understanding of nature, and for me the beauty here as well as the nature of the process involved is that fit between the world and mind.
GB How did you first discover these? Do you have personal experience of them?
JB I came across the sacrificial anodes whilst looking into materials for something I was making. Research often leads off track and a benefit of this is learning a little bit about something you would never normally have become aware of.
GB There was no consideration of beauty in the making of these and yet there are visually arresting. Are you drawn to the coincidental nature of their beauty?
JB Beauty can be found when something is distilled to its basic form and remains functional. Physicists and mathematicians refer to it as elegance. I think it is an unassertive form of beauty, and I think the sacrificial anodes possess this, a simplicity and effortlessness that for me inspires admiration.
GB Their beauty is mostly intellectual for you. Have you studied the science behind them or is the mystery of how they work part of their beauty?
JB I think beauty can achieve a greater wholeness by an appreciation of a thing’s relationship to what is around it. How it acts and how it is acted upon. Its relevance or significance to the larger picture. I would say I have a basic grasp of science, but yes, the fact that the full workings remain hidden is part of it, the unknowing is always part of the beauty.
GB Do you often associate beauty with usefulness? Art is rarely useful. Do you still look for beauty in art?
JB I think art is useful; it’s power to change life is indirect and subtle though. I associate beauty with events and processes, with an unfolding. I like beauty to reveal itself, to be found on it’s own terms. Beauty is something that can surface in the most unexpected ways and this can be a function of art.
GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?
JB Something that hits deep. A feeling of a correlation or resonance with something internal. A capacity to provoke a mixture of thought and feeling, a failure to fully resolve them internally, but a failure that that is somehow fulfilling!