Image of Primary Sections by Mark Firth
Mark Firth, Primary Sections. Photograph © The Cass Sculpture Foundation

Mark Firth

Work exhibited: Primary Sections.

Mark Firth has a background in engineering as well as sculpture, having studied mechanical engineering at the University of Birmingham before moving on to a training in fine art, first at the Camberwell School of Art, then at the Slade. He has taught in a number of art colleges, including Camberwell, but has worked full time as an artist for the last 20 years.

He has worked with a variety of media and materials, especially aluminium and steel, as well as lasers and holograms; his subject matter has often been drawn from physics and the history of science. The forms of his work have become progressively simpler, involving the milling of basic cuboids, combined in ways that involve both reduction and magnification.

Primary Sections reduces to four the array of basic shapes that can be derived from the same proportions, while magnifying the scale on which we would normally encounter such shapes. The forms commonly known as I-beams, Z-purlins, T-sections, and C-sections constitute the most fundamental elements of construction in the modern built environment. They represent the most efficient combinations of solids and voids, and the most elegant ratio between strength and weight, employed almost universally in the girders that structure so much of what we take for granted in the world around us. It does not involve much exaggeration to think of them as the constitutive elements of modernity.

Firth has exchanged their utility for an emphasis on their principles of design, by placing equally balanced cross sections in a symmetrical arrangement uniting them in single sculptural statement. What is normally secreted behind cladding is extroverted and assumes an architectural character and dimension in its own right.

Heidegger’s understanding of dwelling as the most significant way in which humanity partakes of Being, and the most fundamental way in which it takes the measure of existence, is reflected in this sculpture which revolves questions of order, measure, and habitation and the animating relationship between them.

Hear from our students