Charles Hadcock at the Gardner Arts Centre, University of Sussex

Year: 2001
Location: Gardner Arts Centre, University of Sussex
Type: Solo Exhibition: installation of 144 hanging stainless steel panels with soundscape
Publication: The Independent
Author: Jay Merrick

Charles Hadcock at the Gardner Arts Centre, University of Sussex

Article Text: Last weekend, Charles Hadcock’s work was submerged in the welter of humanity that moved along the redeveloped beachfront at Brighton like a rip tide. And at a certain point, half a stone’s throw from the charming whirl of the toot-tooting carousel just west of the Palace Pier, a dozen or so from those huddled masses would have been messing around on a large iron arc made up of geometric chunks, bolted together.

More than a decade after leaving the Royal College of Art, Hadcock’s career can be compared to his strange object: an arc that required ingenuity and  a good deal of sweat to build. Today, Hadcock can safely say that he’s done well. He makes money: he’s sought after by curators and private clients: he has profile; he’s in the zone.

But why him? Why not another talented sculptor or installation artist? It is, if we take him at his word, a question of the penny dropping. Hadcock’s self-realisation – because that, ultimately, is what it takes – was triggered in his last term at the RCA ‘and it only really came to fruition two years after that’

‘What an MA does is heighten everything you have learnt’ he says. ‘But you don’t really know what you’ve learnt until two year later – after you’ve recovered from the hit of the MA’

One piece in his MA turned out to be the delayed-action depth charge in question: ‘It sort of heightened my own atavism, because I came from a long line of engineers and designers’. In short, he realised that his future creative output would be linked to large ‘industrial’ sculptures.

‘It’s the question that objects like that ask’, he says. ‘You put an object like that in an exhibition and it asks: is this art? It has connotations of manufacturing, but it’s manufactured for art. It’s only function is art – a polystyrene packing case that is cast into an item that’s heavyweight, yet without function. By putting it into its own context it has its own voice.

He knew what kind of work he wanted to produce. ‘But you have this thing after leaving. Getting a studio, living, finances. How do you make ends meet? I sold some pieces and that allowed me to rent a studio in Bermondsey. And I was there for 10 years until the rents got too high.

Today, Hadcock and his family live north of Preston. He has a 22,000sq ft studio and enough room to develop an art and design centre. The RCA, he admits, has been vital. ‘The thing about the Royal College education is that you’re being educated by your peers as well as your tutors’ he says. ‘And it was a very good stepping stone’ But it’s not gilt-edged. ‘You have from June to June’ he insists ‘You think, ‘I have just left the Royal College, but by the time of the next year’s leavers, you’re old news.’

This hazardous senses of being remains, ‘I’m making things that, possibly, people won’t want to buy’ he says. ‘It’s a hobby, in a way’ not that anybody on the seafront at Brighton would guess it. And neither would the bigwigs at Scottish Widows or construction giants Amec, two of his most recent corporate clients. Charles Hadcock has held his nerve, and it has paid off.

Also see: Charles Hadcock at the Imperial College Gallery, London