photo Åke Sandström
photo Åke Sandström

Sunlight on Wood
Roger Ackling works with discarded materials: recycled card from the backs of writing pads; fragments of wood which have been thrown away or lost. He finds his wood on the margins, the places where things meet: the messy marriage of town and country; river banks and sluices; flood plains; the spill-over at the back of the beach. Skips and dumps. Places for things we have given up on. Most of his materials come from the beach. They get washed in as flotsam and jetsam and end up at his door.

The pieces which he chooses have always had some previous use. Wood which was shaped into an object by some unknown joiner, put to use and then tossed aside. By the time Ackling finds them, among the tide-wrack and the flies, the original artefact - chair or ladder or box - will have fallen apart at the seams, and lain out long enough for its elements to be chamfered smooth by the sea and the sand and to be bleached by the wind and the salt. What they were once is anybody's guess; they have become abstract.

Roger Ackling makes his work out of doors. He draws by focusing the sun's rays through a small magnifying glass and burning lines on the surface of a small piece of wood or card. He works from left to right across the surface of the piece with the sun always at his shoulder. The lines are photographic in its truest sense. Each mark or dot is a small black sun. Each line is a repeat pattern of burnt sun images, scaled down many million times. Images of the sun, that is, minus any object which intervenes between the glass in his hand and the sun one hundred and fifty million kilometres away; when a bird passes overhead, its shadow is captured within the burnt sunspot. An outline blocking out the light may be as small as a bird or as large as a cloud, but its presence registers. Each dot records the history of the sun's ray on it's journey to the earth.

The work on wood consist of bands of horizontal lines placed to respond to occurances on the surface of the piece; holes; knots or blemishes; nails and stains; the last scabs of paint. The lines are drawn more closely than on the card pieces, and take the form of blocks or diamonds, which pay careful attention to the edges of the wood and its topography.

Sylvia Ackling
Weybourne 1996 (Extract, with revisions, from Roger Ackling 'Black Sun' 1997)

Roger Ackling creates his intimate and beautiful wooden sculptures with the meticulous use of a magnifying glass. By projecting sunlight through the glass he burns lines of tiny dots onto the woodÕs surface to form geometric patterns. The wood that he uses is found on coastal walks - not only drift wood, but remnants of previous objects now obsolete, unidentifiable or broken - weathered by time and the elements and often including rusted nails, holes, stains or daubs of earlier paintwork. Ackling's work poses questions about the relationship between nature and humanity and yet, up until now, they have been formed without the direct contact of the artist's hand - their production is remote but their alteration by the artist gives them a specific and serene individuality.
Roger Ackling has been exhibiting since 1967 and has had many one-person exhibitions in London, Europe, Asia and America. He has exhibited with Annely Juda Fine Art since 1987 and is represented in important public collections worldwide including The British Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Tate Gallery and The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.



1947 Born Isleworth, London
Studied at St Martin's College of Art, London

One-Person Exhibitions

1976 L.C.F. Gallery, London
Lisson Gallery, London
Lisson Gallery, London

1977 Lisson Gallery, London

1978 Marina Urbach, New York
Gillespie-Laage, Paris
Graeme Murray, Edinburgh

1979 Graeme Murray, Edinburgh
Lisson Gallery, London
Gillespie-Laage, Paris
Marina Urbach, New York

1980 Front Room, London

1981 Lisson Gallery, London
Coracle Press, London
Front Room, London
Gillespie-Laage-Salomon, Paris
Galerie Loyse Oppenheim, Nyon

1982 Francoise Lambert, Milan

1983 Coracle Press, London
Amano Gallery, Osaka
RYO Gallery, Kyoto
Kumo Gallery, Tokyo
Coracle Press, London

1984 Gillespie-Laage-Salomon, Paris
Lisson Gallery, London
Amano Gallery, Osaka
Kumo Gallery, Tokyo
Francoise Lambert, Milan
Bradbury and Birch Fine Art, London

1985 Amano Gallery, Osaka
White Art Gallery, Tokyo
Concept Space, Shibukawa

1986 Howard Gardens Gallery, Cardiff
Association Silo, Centre de Creation Contemporaine, Val-de-Vesle
Cairn Gallery, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire
Amano Gallery, Osaka
White Art Gallery, Tokyo
Concept Space, Shibukawa

1987 Juda Rowan Gallery, London
Gillespie-Laage-Salomon, Paris
White Art Gallery, Tokyo
Barn Gallery, Lincoln

1988 Musée d'Arles, Cloitres de St. Trophime

1989 Concept Space, Shibukawa
White Art Gallery, Tokyo
P.P.O.W., New York
Graeme Murray, Edinburgh

1990 Annely Juda Fine Art, London
Vaughan & Vaughan, Minneapolis
Cairn Gallery, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire

1991 Galerie Laage-Salomon, Paris
Ann Westin Gallery, Stockholm
White Art Gallery, Tokyo
Concept Space, Shibukawa
R2, Takazaki
Charles Booth-Clibborn, London
Galerie Lydie Rekow, Crest
Galerie Renée Ziegler, Zurich
Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva

1992 Laura Carpenter Fine Art, Santa Fe
Angles Gallery, Santa Monica

1993 Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago
Galerie Josine Bokhoven, Amsterdam
Galerie Laage-Salomon, Paris
White Art Gallery, Tokyo
Concept Space, Shibukawa
R2, Takazaki

1994 H.S. Steinek, Vienna
Galerie Gisèle Linder, Basel
Galerie Lydie Rekow, Crest,
Annely Juda Fine Art, London
Rosa Turetsky Gallery, Geneva

1995 Second Floor Space, Reykjavik
Palais Thurn und Taxis, Bregenz, Austria
Plymouth Arts Centre, Devon
Galerie Thomas von Lintel, Munich
P.P.O.W., New York
Concept Space, Shibukawa
Low Bet, Geneva
White Art Gallery, Tokyo

1996 Cairn Gallery, Nailsworth
Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama, Japan (with Hamish Fulton)
Galerie Gisèle Linder, Basel
White Art Gallery, Tokyo

1997 Mead Gallery, University of Warwick
Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham
Inverleith House, Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh
Peninsula, Eindhoven
Galerie Peter Lindner, Vienna

1998 Galerie Thomas von Lintel, Munich
Academie Beeldende Kunsten, Maastricht
Mark Moore Gallery, Santa Monica
Annely Juda Fine Art, London
Galerie Laage-Salomon, Paris

1999 Galerie Josine Bokhoven, Amsterdam
Rosa Turetsky Gallery, Geneva
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich
Henie Onstad Museum, Oslo

2000 Galerie von Lintel & Nusser, Munich
Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield
Galerie Gisèle Linder, Basel
Galerie Lydie Rekow, Crest
Ballinglen Arts Foundation, Mayo, Ireland
Sculpture at Schoenthal Monastery, Langenbruck, Switzerland
Von Lintel Gallery, New York

2001 Annandale Galleries, Sydney
Nob Gallery, Okazaki, Japan
Charles Booth-Clibborn, London
Cairn Gallery, Nailsworth
Sleeper, Edinburgh
Galerie Peter Lindner, Vienna

2002 Rosa Turetsky Gallery, Geneva
Von Lintel Gallery, New York
Concept Space, Shibukawa, Japan
Nob Gallery, Okazaki, Japan
Galerie Elvira Gonzalez, Madrid
Annadale Galleries, Sydney
Gallery New South Wales, Sydney
Temporary Space, Hokkaido, Japan
Michael Sturm Galerie, Stuttgart

2003 Annely Juda Fine Art, London

2007 Galleri KONSTRUKTIV TENDENS, Stockholm

Group Exhibitions

1967 Although We Are Painting Now, Ealing Art School
Four European Film Makers, ICA, London
Avantgarde Film, ICA, London
Young Contemporaries/Film, London

1968 Zwemmers Summer Show, London

1977 Six British Artists, Museum of Fine Art, Pretto, New York organised by the Lisson Gallery
European and American Drawing, Gillespie-Laage Gallery, Paris
Miniatures, Coracle Press London
Whitechapel Open, London
Annina Weber Gallery, New York

1978 Foundlings, Coracle Press, London

1979 Recent Acquisitions of Southampton Art Gallery, exhibited at the Mayor Gallery, London
Europa 79 - Art of the 80's - Survey of New European Art, Düsseldorf
Summer Show, Lisson Gallery, London
Drawing, Gillespie-Laage Gallery, Paris
Drawings from Outer Hebrides, London Collge of Furniture Gallery

1980 Opening Show, Lisson Gallery, London
Nuova Image, Triennale, Milan
XVI Venice Biennale Aperto, Venice
Toulon Biennale, France
Selected Works, Graeme Murray, Edinburgh
Whitechapel Open, London
British Art 1946-80, Hayward Gallery, London
Five Work Caps, Coracle Press, London

1981 Contemporary Art and Music, Fruit Market Gallery, Edinburgh
Selected Works, Lisson Gallery, London
Graeme Murray Artists at St. Paul's Gallery, Leeds
Contemporary Art, Orchard Gallery, Londonderry
American and British Art, Gillespie-Laage, Paris
Bienale Sao Paulo

1982 A Mansion of Many Chambers, Arts Council Touring Exhibition curated byDavid Brown
Recent Acquisitions of the Arts Council Collection, National Theatre, London
Aspects of British Art Today, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tokyo and touring Japan
10th Anniversary, L.Y.C. Museum, selected by D. Nash
Studio F Ten Years of Painting, Chelsea Art School Gallery, London
English Books, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt

1983 III Biennale European Graphic Art, Baden-Baden, Germany
Through Children's Eyes, Southampton City Art Gallery
Art and the Land, Rochdale Art Gallery
1983 Eleven Artists, London College of Furniture Gallery, London
L'Objet Defeu, Gabrielle Maubrie, Paris
Works on Paper, British Council Touring Exhibition
Works on Loan, Graeme Murray Gallery, Edinburgh
Constructed Images, Arts Council Touring Exhibition
World Print Biennale, San Francisco
Whitechapel Open, London
Contemporary Choice, Serpentine Gallery, London

1984 Six Artists, Metropolitan Gallery, London
Selected Works, Herefordshire Museum
Survey of Fire, Chalons sur Marne Museum, Region Champagne- Ardennes
Second Nature, curated by Commong Ground, Newlyn Art Gallery
Three Galleries, Serpentine Gallery, London
Selected Work, Warwick Art Trust

1985 Seven Artists, London College of Furniture Gallery
Promenade - Outside Sculpture, Geneva, Switzerland
Carta, Fonds Regionaux D'Art Contemporain Champagne- Ardennes, touring exhibition
Papier/Dechirure, M.J.C. Les Hauts de Beueville
Common Ground, Ecology Centre, London
Landscape Interiors, Coracle Press, London

1986 Orchard Gallery, Londonderry
Un Aspect Des Collection du Fonds Regional D'Art Contemporain Bretagne, Rennes, France
Overland, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
Landscape, Kettles Yard Gallery, Cambridge

1987 The Unpainted Landscape, Scottish Arts Council, touring exhibition
Coon Selected Works, Cairn Gallery, Nailsworth
Book Works, Jonah Jones, Artists Market, London

1988/89 Private Eyes, Camden Art Centre, London
Victoria Miro Gallery, London
Le Reveil de la Nature, Helsinki Art Hall
Britannica, Trente ans de Sculpture, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Le Havre, touring to Museum Van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp, and Centre d'Art Contemporain Midi-Pyrenees, Labege-Innopole, Toulouse
Roger Ackling, David Nash, Diane Samuels, Mincher/Wilcox Gallery, San Francisco

1990 The Journey 1990, Lincoln Cathedral
Territories II, Musée de Beaux Arts, Reims

1991 Archeology into Art, Eastbourne, touring exhibition
Norfolk Portfolio: Recent Work by Roger Ackling, Anthony Benjamin, Derrick Greaves, Norwich Castle Museum
Dessins d'une Collection, Movement 5, FRAC, Picardie
White Art Gallery, Tokyo
Modern Drawings, Anthony Slayter-Ralph Gallery, New York
1992 One form, one surface, one volume, Galerie Gisele Linder, Basle

1994 Fine Lines, Anthony Slayter-Ralph Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
In Pursuit of Lost Time, Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston,

1997 The Quality of Light, Tate Gallery St. Ives

1998-99 Small is Beautiful Part XVI: Music, Flowers East, London

1999 Chart - marking time in the landscape, Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham
Nature/Process, University of California Art Gallery

2001 Geometrisk, Konstruktiv Tendens, Stockholm

2002 The Great Divide, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

2003 On General Release, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Work in Public Collections
Arts Council of Great Britain
Association Silo, Val-de-Vesle
Ballinglen Foundation, Ireland
British Council
British Museum, London
Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneve
Century American Corporation,Chicago
Cheltenham City Art Gallery
Contemporary Arts Society, London
First National Bank of Chicago
Fonds National d'Art Contemporain, Paris
Fonds National d'Art Contemporain, Picardie
Fonds Regional d'Art Contemporain, Champagne
Fonds Regional d'Art Contemporain, Normandie
Fruit Market Gallery, Edinburgh
Furkart, Furkapasshöhe, Switzerland
Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art
John and Catherine MacArthur Foundation, Chicago
Kreissparkasse, Reutlingen
Kunstmuseum, Zurich
Ministère de la Culture de la Region, Bretagne
Musée d'Arles, Cloitres de St. Trophime
Museo Cantonale d'Arte (Panza di Biumo collection), Lugano
Musée de Grenoble
Museum Folkwang, Essen
Naples Museum of Art, Naples, Florida
Schoental Monastery, Switzerland
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo
Southampton City Art Gallery
Tate Gallery, London
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum
U.B.S Bank of Switzerland
University of East Anglia, Norwich
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Vienna National Film Library
Kunstmuseum, Vienna
Museum of Contemporary Art, Geneva
Museum of the Town, Reykjavik
Palais Thurn und Taxis, Bregenz
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Wakayama Museum of Modern Art


From the distance of the gallery entrance, the first impression is of a few bits of old furniture wood picked up at random on a demolition site and stuck onto the long white wall roughly at eye level. From closer up, the bits of wood suggest a different origin: their colour has softened or bleached and the nails and fragments of metal fixtures are rusted through long exposure to the elements. But, strangely, they all show the residue of a pattern of a darker rectangle that covers most of their visible surface, leaving only a few narrow strips or small rectangles of lighter, natural wood. This pattern is evidence that the pieces may have once all fitted together and formed a functional or decorative unit of some kind. Inspection shows, however that the darker areas are made up of dozens of closely-spaced horizontal lines burnt into the surface, as if the wood had been placed on a hot grill after it was found. But the lines are too soft, too natural for such a mechanical process, recalling rather graphical shading executed with charcoal and a ruler. The conclusion is clear: the lines are the work of the artist.

Now each piece can be read as a minimalist geometric drawing executed on a found object. But that turns out to be simplistic, for there is an exquisite interplay between features of the object and the artist's intervention. The areas of shading tend to divide the total surface into halves or quarters, thus picking out the lines of symmetry of the object, while a knot or a nail or some other accidental presence may define its own rectangular space blocking the progress of the shading. And such a rectangle sometimes, but only sometimes, map to an image of itself by reflection, or rotation of the object. A single rusty nail head barely protruding from the wood's surface, a minuscule fleck of paint, a broken hinge: such are the actors in these subtle compositional statements. This adds a continuity of content to the evident stylistic unity of the drawing. Indeed, the sense of continuity from one piece to the next is so strong that for a moment the suspicion is entertained that some of the nails and other remnants were actually placed or modified by the artist. Inspection shows that this cannot be the case; and reflection suggests that the artist's original choice of pieces to act as a support for the drawing was as important as the drawing itself.

Once clarified, the material and formal basis of the work is forgotten and one is left with the intimate, iconic character of each piece. Their small size and fleeting existence as objects is underscored by the artist's minimalist intervention; and, at the same time, denied by that intervention's delicate, painstaking and aesthetic quality. Simplicity, purity, piety: these are the kinds of adjective that fit well with an emotional response that long outlasts the intellectual puzzle. And it is not perturbed by learning the external history of the show. The wood is all driftwood, picked up on the long shingle beach at Weybourne, a village on the North Norfolk coast of England. The drawing was done by holding the piece in one hand and using the other to focus the sun's rays through a lens, a technique that requires enormous patience and concentration. the imaginative participation of the viewer in each piece thus goes beyond its visible presence to encompass the whole process of creation.

Several of the key ideas in contemporary art are reflected in Ackling's work. The long solitary walks taken to find the original material; the balance between chance, choice and invention; the intense demands of the drawing executed in a mental and physical state close to meditation; the rigourous minimalism of the artist's intervention: all these aspects of the work fix it is as part of a larger artistic culture, without reducing its originality and autonomy. At a more abstract, almost philosophical level, it is natural to think of Ackling's pieces in the context of the many boundaries and limits that have inspired and defined so much of the best modern art. the drift wood thrown up by a winter storm onto a shingle beach in Norfolk lay on the boundary between land and sea, between the landscape that man owns and controls and the seascape that he does not. The wood itself is a natural product that was once transformed by man into useful objects such as boxes, cupboards and other furniture. As waste from our culture it became part of the boundary between us and nature. But this waste was not buried or incinerated: it found its way into the sea where water, salt and sun did their work. then it was pushed back onto the beach, transformed from a piece of rubbish into an object of beauty. By using the sun as a tool, Ackling pushes to the limit the artist's desire not just to participate in, but to become one with this natural process of transformation. But the drawing itself, in its formal elegance, sharply defined the final objects as a product of the human mind. Moreover these are very special products. Not only are they works of art exhibited in a gallery, but they are the kind of art that pushes back the limit of what is art and what is not. And that involves the boundaries proper to art itself, which Ackling's work also questions and explores: these objects lie across the limits between painting, drawing and sculpture.

Philip Swann, Geneva 1992
(written in response to Ackling's recent museum exhibition at the Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva)


Junichin Shioda: Bijutsu Techo, pp. 100-104

Larry Berryman: 'Roger Ackling', Arts Review, p.186, 27 March
'Artist through the magnifying glass', The Independent, Friday 6 March
William Packer: Financial Times, Thursday 12 March
Sarah Kent: Time Out, 25 March
Monica Bohm-Duchen: 'Lijn, Ackling, Wentworth, Deacon', Art Monthly,
pp. 19, 20 May
William Packer: 'Two sculptors' time and place', Financial Times,
Thursday March 12

Joel Perron: 'Magnifying lens becomes artist's tool', The Japan Times,
Sunday 2 April
Michael Brenson: 'Roger Ackling', The New York Times, Friday 9 June

David Bonetti: 'A very English way with wood sculpture', San Francisco Examiner, 24 January
William Packer: 'Sculpture tailored from the countryside', Financial Times, Saturday 3 February
Marina Vaizey: 'Invitation into magical worlds', The Sunday Times,
25 February
William Feaver: 'Warm fronts to whet a weatherman's appetite', Observer, Sunday 25 February
David Lee: 'London Reviews', Arts Review, 23 February
Sue Hubbard: Time Out, 28 February - 7 March
Mel Gooding: 'Reclamations and Reminders: Roger Ackling's sculpture', Art Monthly, March
Nikkei Art, April


Tony Warner: 'Norfolk Portfolio', Arts Review, 18 October
Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton: 'Territorial Rights', Artscribe
Nadia El Beblawi: 'Experience poetique traduite', Journal de Geneve, Tuesday 22 October
Laurence Chauvy: 'Le soleil, maitre d'oeuvre', Gazette de Lausanne, Tuesday 22 October
Francoise Nyffenegger: 'Du bois au fer', La Tribune de Geneve, Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 November
Francoise Nyffenegger: 'Mes dix plaisirs esthetiques', La Tribune de Geneve, Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 November

Gussie Fauntleroy: 'Ackling has a burning desire to create his own style of art', Pasatiempo ,The Santa Fe, New Mexican Weekly Arts & Entertainment Magazine, 27 March
Pamela J. Tarchinski: 'Culture Plays Pivotal Role In Artworks', Journal North, Santa Fe, Thursday 2 April
Simone Ellis: Pasatiempo , The Santa Fe, New Mexican Weekly Arts & Entertainment Magazine, 3 April
Sybille Roter: 'Konfrontation statt Kunstkonsum: "une forme une surface un volume" in der Basler Galerie Gisele Linder', Basler Zeitung, 10 July

Voorkeur, 24 June (review of the exhibition at Galerie Josine Bokhoven, Amsterdam)
Din Pieters and Mark Peeters: NRC-Handelsblad, 25 June

Bijutsu Techo, 5 May (review of the exhibition at White Art Gallery, Tokyo)
The Christian Science Monitor, 26 May (review of the exhibition at Annely Juda Fine Art)
ARTIS, December (review of the exhibition at Galerie Turetsky)
The Financial Times, 31 May 1994 (review of the exhibition at Annely Juda Fine Art by William Packer)
'Untitled' review of contemporary art, Summer 1994 (review of the exhibition at Annely Juda Fine Art)

ARTI, Volume 24, May

Reviews of exhibition with Hamish Fulton
at Wakayama Museum of Modern Art:
Wakayama Prefecture Newspaper, 23 May
Sankei Newspaper, 24 May
Yomiuri Newspaper, 4 & 28 June
Asahi Newspaper, 27 June

William Packer, 'Age shall not wither the artists', Financial Times, 9 June
Juan Cruz, 'Roger Ackling', Review of exhibition at Annely Juda Fine Art, Art Monthly, July 1998

John Haldane: 'Back to the Land', Art Monthly, June

Tadeus Pfeifer: 'Spannende Ruhe' (review of exhibition at Gisèle Lindner Gallery), Basler Zeitung, 17 March

Mel Gooding, Song of the Earth, RA0577 illustrated on page 35