‘Being Human’ is the latest collection of original wall mounted sculptures, complimented by boutique and limited edition publishing, from innovative British sculptor, Nic Joly. Tackling the intangible social restraints that we impose on ourselves and each other, this body of work casts off convention to celebrate honesty and the words that, too often, go unspoken.
What is it that makes us human? This is an age-old question, Stephen Hawking recently asked “Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?” In contrast the naivety of a young mind may ask “Why is there something and not nothing?” Perhaps the question of what it means to be human can be linked back to that first painting made in a cave 30,000 years ago. All the forms of communications since the dawn of human intellect have served to tell a story and portray the very essence of human experience.
Let’s move forward to the 21st Century. We have all at one point or another in our life fallen prey to the widespread misnomer that confuses ‘can have it all’ with ‘should have it all’. The pressure we bring down on others and ourselves has led to a contagion that envelops the human spirit in self-doubt, a sense of not being quite good enough and a desperate need to hide that from our contemporaries who, outwardly, appear to be immune to such insecurities.
A natural progression from Joly’s previous collection ‘Light & Dark’, this body of work serves to highlight that we are all as much a product of our hidden talents, insecurities and faults as we are recognised for the traits we’re happy to display outwardly. ‘Light & Dark’ cast a satirical spotlight on human nature, and the myriad shades of good and bad within us all. Whilst ‘Being Human’ does likewise, it takes the next step and encompasses a fuller emotional range, with shades of politics and humorous nuances aplenty. The latter is a key theme for Joly, who urges that “we must be able to laugh at ourselves, we simply mustn’t take ourselves too seriously.”
In evolutionary terms, Joly asserts that we are merely “sophisticated versions of our animal kingdom counterparts”, and that our basest instincts render us afraid of being seen as the weak member of the herd. Darwinian natural selection genetically conditions us to ensure our success and survival by adapting to our surroundings, which in a modern context equates to conforming to accepted ideals, shaping ourselves to meet the standards of others.
Social media has played its part in perpetuating unrealistic, and often unachievable, standards against which a whole generation compares itself. The emergence of apps that allow us to slim our bodies, digitally alter our surroundings and free ourselves of the blemishes of reality are testament to our paradoxical pursuit of perfection.
‘Being Human’ throws societal ideals under the microscope, and gives us hope that our fear of judgement and the ensuing need to maintain a ‘stiff upper lip’ is misplaced. Leading by example, Joly has created an open dialogue where shame has no place. He asserts that “the confidence to bare our souls comes with age and experience, and the wisdom that we ought to wear our emotional scars with pride, as they represent challenges we’ve overcome not moments of failure.” His own inimitable style of tackling social commentary through the medium of observational art takes the sting out of the message it delivers. Despite the often introspective subject matter, we are left feeling renewed by the warmth and humour in the art, safe in the knowledge that Joly not only accepts our faults and flaws, he celebrates them.