Skip to content
Arnolfini - est 1961

With: Denis Mitchell
There are two kinds of sculptors: those that build outwards from a skeleton framework and those that carve into a solid block.The carver is the rarer bird, and Denis Mitchell is a carver. He started as a sculptor by carving in wood, and now, although he uses metal, he still carves.
He starts a new sculpture by building up the rough form in plaster. This he gets sand cast at a local foundry. The resulting solid block of bronze, or aluminium, is still much larger than the finished work. It is out of this rough block of metal that he gradually files and grinds and sandpapers and files and coaxes his final form. This method of working is very laborious, and a great deal of hard work goes into each piece. But this is not the end. He likes to keep his work around him in the orderly chaos of his studio for a long time, continually refining it and thinking about it, before he will agree to exhibit it.
It is a slow and painstaking method of working, but it is part of the reason why a work by Denis Mitchell has an enduring quality which puts it above the swirls of fashion, and why those that are familiar with his work prize it so highly. But only part of the reason. How he is able to translate a heavy lump of metal into an object at once serene, but yet full of energy; severe, yet full of gentleness; abstract, yet full of humanity — is a secret that belongs only to Denis Mitchell and his Creator.

Breon O’Casey/February 1967

John Plumb believes that a painting without content is a contradiction in terms. His paintings are about colour because he knows that content can be communicated more completely and more directly by colour than by anything else. Indeed, over a period of years, he has discovered that other factors – composition, configuration, ‘images’ – hinder rather than help this direct communication of content. He has therefore fought to refine his means to the point where the means carry the content so completely that they cease to be means and are in themselves content.

Frank Whitford, Feb 1967.