Like his friends and colleagues Richard Long and Hamish Fulton, Ackling belongs to the generation of artists who graduated from St Martins School of Art in the 1960s with a sense of the possibility of taking art out of the studio. Sculpture, they decided, could be anything they wanted it to be, and in Ackling’s case this was a small piece of found wood marked by the sun. He makes all of his work by the same method: focusing sunlight through a hand-held magnifying glass to draw on to pieces of discarded wood or scraps of card which he rescues from the edges of our everyday lives. Effectively, he is drawing with light. It is an intense and meditative process; each mark, like a tiny sun, measuring the existence of a ray of light on its passage to earth from a source many millions of miles away. He imprints real time upon something that already has a history and has been modelled by the elements. The resulting works have a weight and strength and stillness which belies their often small scale and everyday origins. Ackling’s art urges a renewed awareness of the small, the silent, the marginal, the overlooked.
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