Auguste Rodin cast hands

Sculptural Processes Group

The Sculptural Processes Group (SPG) is an informal study group set up in October 2007 to facilitate exchanges between researchers, curators, conservators, artists and practitioners interested in questions of sculptural practice. The SPG explores, through seminars, artist’s talks and site visits, various aspects of the creative, intellectual and material processes involved in making sculpture from the medieval to the contemporary. Membership is taken from a wide variety of practices and fields and mixes postgraduates with senior figures in their fields. The core group is comprised of a small number of academics, PhD students, curators and conservators with diverse interests from the Courtauld and other universities and museums.


The Sculptural Processes Group is convened by: Dr Jo Applin, Reader in the History of Art, Head of History of Art Department; Dr Jessica Barker, Lecturer in Medieval Art; Cathy Corbett, PhD candidate; Maureen Cross, Lecturer, Conservation and Technology; Dr Alexandra Gerstein, Curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts; Dr Pia Gottschaller, Senior Lecturer, Conservation and Technology.

The aims of the SPG are to enable its members to gain a more precise and nuanced understanding of the practical processes of sculpture – both through close examination of works and through discussion with colleagues from diverse backgrounds. We host a wide variety of events including: an Annual Artist’s Talk (past speakers include Alison Wilding, Raphael Hefti and Marc Quinn); a cross-period seminar bringing artists, conservators and art-historians into dialogue on a common theme (such as “plaster”, “patina” and “tools and tooling”); handling sessions; visits to artist’s studios, bronze foundries, art schools, private and public collections, special out-of-hours exhibition visits, and sculpture conservation studios.


Frances Richardson ‘A sculpture can do what a ruler can not’ – 5 May 2022

Taking her recent exhibition ‘if I measure it must exist’ as starting point, artist Frances Richardson will discuss the relevance of thinking through process and materials in her work. Richardson will introduce her work via three works by Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns and Giotto to explore how idea, image, and object inform her practice. 

Frances Richardson (b. 1965, Leeds, UK) received her MA in Fine Art Sculpture from the Royal College of Art, London in 2006. Previous to this she studied BA (Hons) Fine Art at Norwich School of Art and Design, Norwich. Following this course, Richardson received a Commonwealth Foundation Fellowship and trained as a Yoruba carver under Master Carver Segun Faleye in Nigeria. Later studies brought her to the Sculpture MA at the Royal College of Art.

Richardson exhibits both nationally and internationally. Key solo exhibitions include: If I measure it must exist, Karsten Schubert London, 2021, Not even nothing can be free from ghosts, Standpoint Gallery, London 2018, In times of brutal instability, Chiara Williams Contemporary Art, London Art Fair 2018, Performed object: Fig.090616, Concrete Canvas HQ, Treforest Industrial Estate, Cardiff 2016, Loss of object and bondage to it Fig.2, Bermondsey Square Sculpture Commission, Vitrine Gallery, London 2015, Loss of object and bondage to it, Lubomirov-Easton, London 2014 and Ideas in the Making: drawing structure, Trinity Contemporary, London 2011.

In 2021 Richardson received the prestigious Bryan Robertson Trust Award. Other recent awards include the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award and Chiara Williams Contemporary Art SOLO AWARD (both 2017). She was nominated for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women 2015-17 in collaboration with Whitechapel Gallery.

Organised by Professor Jo Applin (The Courtauld) and Dr Pia Gottschaller (The Courtauld). 

The Sculptural Processes Group is proudly supported by McQueens Flowers Ltd. 

2018 - 2019

Tools and Tooling – 10 May 2019

Tools are essential to the making of sculpture; yet they are usually overlooked in favour of the hand that wields them or the artwork they produce. This seminar will explore tools (the objects) and tooling (the actions they allow) from diverse perspectives. Ranging from China to Europe, and the eighteenth century to the present day, our speakers consider the role of sculptural tools in technical innovation, their status as objects and their relationship to language.


Professor Katie Scott (Courtauld Institute of Art): Tools, Models, Words: Sculpture in the Making in Eighteenth-Century Paris.

Dr Geoffrey Gowlland (Cultural History Museum, University of Oslo) Learning to Use the Tools of Yixing Zisha Ceramics (China).

Ann Compton (University of Glasgow): Traditional Tools and Technical Innovation in Victorian Architectural Sculpture.

Organised by Dr Jessica Barker (The Courtauld Institute of Art) and Dr Alexandra Gerstein (The Courtauld Gallery)


16.00-16.10: Introduction and Welcome

16.10-16.40: Katie Scott (Courtauld Institute of Art), Tools, Models, Words: Sculpture in the Making in Eighteenth-Century Paris.

16.30-17.00: Geoffrey Gowlland (Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo), Learning to Use the Tools of Yixing zisha Ceramics (China)

17.00-17.30: Ann Compton (University of Glasgow), Traditional Tools and Technical Innovation in Victorian Architectural Sculpture.

17.30-18.00: Discussion (chaired by Alexandra Gerstein and Jessica Barker)


Ann Compton (University of Glasgow) has published extensively on sculpture and British art, and was project originator and director of the digital humanities research programme Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951. Recent publications include co-editing (with Tomas Macsotay) ‘National Sculpture in Cosmopolitan Paris’ a special issue of the Sculpture Journal (27.1). Compton is currently writing a history of sculpturally related businesses in Victorian and Edwardian Britain. 

Geoffrey Gowlland is an anthropologist based at the Cultural History Museum, University of Oslo. He has research interests in the anthropology of craft, materiality, apprenticeship, and indigeneity. His earlier research focused on issues of enskilment, and on heritage, in two ceramics productions centres in China and Taiwan. His current research looks at the revitalisation of crafts among the indigenous people of Taiwan and implications for the politics of indigeneity.

Katie Scott is Professor in the History of Art at the Courtauld Institute, and has an interest in art practices in the eighteenth century.  She is currently working with Dr Hannah Williams on a book about artists’ things that includes a number of sculptors’ tools.

Marc Quinn in conversation with Jo Applin and Pia Gottschaller – 30 May 2019

The Annual Artist’s talk hosted by The Courtauld’s Sculptural Processes Group will be delivered by the artist Marc Quinn on Thursday May 30th. Quinn will be in conversation with Jo Applin and Pia Gottschaller to discuss his career, working processes and his most recent project called Our Blood. Our Blood is a social sculpture made in collaboration with refugees and non-refugees to support refugees around the world. Marc Quinn has exhibited internationally in museums and galleries including Tate Gallery, London (1995), Fondazione Prada, Milan (2000), National Portrait Gallery, London (2002), MACRO, Rome (2006), Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2009), Goss-Michael Foundation, Dallas (2009), Musée Océanographique, Monaco (2012), Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice (2013) and Arter, Space for Art, Istanbul (2014), Somerset House, London (2015), The Sir John Soane Museum, London (2017), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2018), and CAFA Art Museum, Beijing (2019).

Quinn discussed his career, working processes and his most recent project called Our Blood. You can watch this here.

Organised by Dr Jo Applin (Courtauld Institute of Art) and Dr Alexandra Gerstein (Courtauld Institute of Art)

Analía Saban in conversation with Jo Applin and Pia Gottschaller

Analía Saban is a contemporary conceptual artist based in Los Angeles. She rethinks traditional media such as painting, sculpture and drawing in the context of scientific and technological experimentation and reworks materials like marble or canvas in confusing, subversive ways. We will discuss with Saban her artistic practice and how it relates to the larger social implications of her material and object-based inquiries.

Analia Saban (*1980 in Buenos Aires, Argentina) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She received a BFA in 2001 from Loyola University, New Orleans, and an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2005. Her work has been included in solo exhibitions internationally at Modern Art Museum Fort Worth (2019), Qiao Space, Shanghai (2017-18), Blaffer Art Museum, Houston (2016), and Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena (2014). Recent group exhibitions include those at Marciano Art Foundation, LA (2019), Hammer Museum, LA (2018), Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Aïshti Foundation, Beirut (both 2016-17) and Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013). Her work has also been featured at Art Safiental 2018: Horizontal–Vertical (2018); NGV Triennial at National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2017-18), and the first Hammer Museum biennial, Made in L.A. 2012. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including an artist residency at the Getty Research Institute (2015-16), she is also represented in the collections of, among others, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Musée national d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris; and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

You can watch the lecture here. 

Organised by Professor Jo Applin (The Courtauld) and Dr Pia Gottschaller (The Courtauld) 

Sculptural Processes Research Group is proudly supported by McQueens Flowers Ltd 


Alison Wilding RA: Artist Talk – 5 May 2017

For this artist’s talk, hosted by the Sculptural Processes Group (SPG), Alison Wilding RA will discuss her abstract sculptural work, which ranges across media and materials.  After graduating from the Royal College of Art, London in 1973, Wilding’s work was included in a number of important group shows of the new British sculpture then beginning to emerge. Wilding is known in particular for her innovative use of contrasting materials, often pairing forms in precarious juxtapositions and balancing acts. Recent works combine string, steel and hair, mirrored glass, silicone rubber, alabaster, sand, and painted foam. Often her works sit directly on the floor, or appear propped against a wall. Smaller works appear balanced on tabletops or on the floor. Frequent lurches in scale punctuate Wilding’s work. From the small tabletop sculptures reminiscent of early dada objects to the large, multi-part environments and major outdoor installations, from things you hold to those that expand to fill your field of vision. While at college Wilding experimented with installation, and while she turned increasingly toward three-dimensions, her work has never lost sight of questions of environment and placement – whether a publicly commissioned work out doors, or a sculpture arranged on a gallery floor.

Alison Wilding was born in 1948 and currently lives and works in London. Having studied at Nottingham College of Art, Nottingham; Ravensbourne College of Art and Design, Bromley; and the Royal College of Art, London; Wilding’s first major solo exhibition was held at the Serpentine Gallery, London, in 1985. Notable awards include a Henry Moore Fellowship at the British School at Rome (1988); the Joanna Drew Travel Bursary (2007); The Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award (2008) and Bryan Robertson Award (2012). Wilding was nominated for the Turner Prize in both 1988 and 1992, and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1999. In 2013 Alison Wilding has a solo exhibition in the Duveen Gallery, Tate Britain and in May 2017 an exhibition Alison Wilding: Sculpture opens at Offer Watermann.

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Sculptural Processes Group is proudly supported by McQueens Flowers Ltd