‘Who is this fellow Bob Dylan? He is surprises and disguises’, said Gregory Peck. One of the many things I love about Bob Dylan is his constant ability to surprise me- despite being a fan of his for over 20 years I am constantly learning new things about him. This is mainly due to his complexity and mysteriousness but also his ability to surprise and do the unexpected.I was surprised to find out a few weeks ago that Bob has been making iron sculptures. I was also surprised that Dylan even had the time to create the metal work given that he only has a month or two off from touring per year.
Seven gates welded out of vintage iron and other metals by Bob Dylan will be featured in a new exhibition, called ‘Mood Swings’, in London from 16 November until 25 January at the Halycon Gallery. The exhibition will also feature Dylan’s artwork. Dylan’s metalwork as well as his paintings show that the world’s greatest songwriter is another of those geniuses who have talent in various art forms.
At first glance it seems very unexpected. However if you think about it, it makes sense and can even be seen as Bob going back to his North Country roots- the Iron Range in Minnesota. Bob was brought up in Hibbing, Minnesota an iron mining community. Dylan said, ‘I’ve been around iron all my life ever since I was a kid. I was born and raised in iron ore country – where you could breathe it and smell it every day. And I’ve always worked with it in one form or another.’
Dylan’s working in metal can also be seen as a return to his folk roots and his early songs which voiced the concerns of the working man. This is not the first time that Dylan has explored iron in art- he has explored it in song with ‘Cold Irons Bound’ and ‘North Country Blues’. ‘North Country Blues’, an early Woody Guthrie-style song evokes the hardship of life in an iron mining community, similar to that of his hometown. ‘Cold Irons Bound’ is written in a traditional Blues style with the narrator being ‘Cold Irons Bound’, bound for the Iron Range?
There is a beautiful paradox to Dylan working in metal, a concrete material given his lyrics are so complex their meaning is difficult to pin down. Perhaps after working in the elusive field of words Dylan is enjoying working with such a physical material to voice his artist expression.
Dylan stated, ‘Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow. They can be closed but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow. They can shut you out or shut you in. And in some ways there is no difference.’
Mood Swings opens on 16 November 2013 and runs until 25 January 2014 at 144-146 New Bond Street, London.