Concrete is not usually thought of as an artistic medium, but the work of artist David Undery has realised both its aesthetic and its tactile potential. It is a realisation that perfectly complements the urban built environment
David Undery views concrete as the natural visual material of the urban environment, and set about working with the material in order to demonstrate not only its overwhelming reference to urban life but also its missed everyday beauty. The very blandness of the material provides Undery with a blank canvas on which concrete's industrial connotations are celebrated rather than disguised. Having previously worked with more traditional mediums, Undery is excited by the range of options made available by concrete, including the sense of surface texture, colour and durability.
The aesthetic quality and spirituality of Undery's work has been created after a long chain of developments. The texture of the work is achieved through several techniques. Panels are cast in custom-built moulds from a mix that has been developed over a number of years on advice from various cement and aggregate suppliers. The panels are then worked on in a number of ways, using techniques from grinding to industrial chemical etching.
The resulting abstract concrete panels forge a new direction in both technique and the practical application of concrete technology. This art form could be viewed as being either painting or architecture. The ambiguity suits Undery, who believes that the appreciation and awareness of one's surroundings are the ultimate compliment to those responsible for their creation. Therefore, he has resolved that his art should work alongside its surroundings rather than against them. For this reason he is particularly keen that, through working with architects and specifiers, art becomes an integral part of urban design and structure rather than a separate entity added at a later date.
Undery's work was recently displayed at David Holmes Contemporary Art in Peterborough, where visitors were urged not just to look but to touch as well. They saw how the use of metals such as lead, copper and brass revealed clips of urban life imagery through colours that are sensual, earthy and industrial. They felt soft satin finishes that contrasted with rough-cast textured concrete and chemically etched surfaces.
Undery's work shows a further aspect of concrete's versatility. It demonstrates that it has the ability to be an art medium in its own right that can combine visuality and tactility successfully with architectural and structural design.