In the studio: Joe DeMetro

Joe De Metro is a sculptor based in Ras Al Khaimah. He told us about his war machines and the dark side of spirituality.

Interview, In the studio

What are these sculptures?
They’re abstract sculptures. I’ve tried to include a lot of sources in them – things that have interested me over the long term in spiritual architecture; cathedrals, mosques.

How does spiritual architecture find its way into these?
What is it about ornamentation in decorative architecture that brings people to divinity? That was my motivation to explore those forms in detail. Features that point towards the sky, repeated forms. Anywhere that you repeat a form, you’re going to get a rhythm and religious architecture has that in abundance. That’s what interested me.

What do you make of what’s happening art-wise here?
Like India, where I was living before, it’s got an emerging interest in contemporary culture and I want to try and get involved in the art world here. Much of the work I see by younger artists, people my age, is philosophically coming from a different place. In Asian art you see a lot of work that comments on cultures in transition or a fusion of postmodern culture with ancient elements, bridging that with digital means. I’m coming very much from a tradition of looking for contemporary ways of using traditions of painting and sculpture, especially colour theory and abstraction. I find myself a little isolated in my interests but I think that there’s a similarity there. I feel that legacies of spirituality are investigated in Asian art, and my work sits in that vein to some degree.

These works look pretty violent
I recognise that there are some dark sides to spirituality. I think there’s a sinister aspect of danger for those who stray from rules. These are not military tanks in an obvious way, but could be seen as abstractions of tanks and war machines, infused with spiritual elements. Religious practices ask their followers to defend that faith, whether it’s in a Christian sense or an Islamic sense, and I want to address that.

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