A Clockwork Sculptor

about Herman Makkink

Born in the Netherlands, October 1937, Herman Makkink became interested in art in 1961, when he was living in Japan. Later, in southern California, having seen the art boxes of Joseph Cornell, he began to assemble pieces of scrap iron that had fallen off the freight cars he was shunting for Pacific Electric Railway. That was in 1965. He gives an account of these early years of travel and his evolution as an artist, in his graphic memoir The Shortest Way Home.

He settled in London in 1966, where he first met up with the writer Julia Blackburn. He learned basic sculpture technique while working as technical assistant in the 3D Department of the London College of Printing. Together with his brother, the painter Cornelis Makkink, he acquired a studio at St Catherine’s Docks, from S.P.A.C.E., an organisation headed by the artists Bridget Riley and Peter Sedgeley. There, in 1969 he was discovered by Stanley Kubrick who used two of his works in his 1971 film A Clockwork Orange: Rocking Machine and Christ Unlimited. Through SPACE, Herman took part in several group shows and from 1971 he had a one-man exhibition at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Returning to Amsterdam in 1972, he began constructing boxes in which dramatic human events had just happened or were about to happen. He died in Suffolk UK, October 2013.

“The Christ Unlimited figures were not designed especially for A Clockwork Orange. They formed part of my studio work at the time, and, after seeing them there, Kubrick wanted to use them for the film because they probably had the futuristic look he and his wife wanted. In the late sixties and early seventies, we, London based artists, felt terribly hip. We didn’t want to fight the establishment so much as shock them. Christ Unlimited was inspired by a crucified Christ statuette that I had found. The left arm and both legs from the waist down had been broken off. I replaced them in a more joyous pose — that of a dancer in the midst of a popular folk dance from the Balkans and the Middle East, known as The Butchers Dance.”

The film used four of the figures, probably to symbolize the four droogs, as well as the themes of art and joy. In 2005, Medicom Toy released an edition of 20-inch Christ Unlimited art toys sold in pairs of two, while in 2009, another Japanese company, Nexus VII, released an even more limited all-black Christ Unlimited multiple.


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