This sculpture’s origins come partly from Plato’s Theory of Forms as a solution to the problem of universals and partly from that fact that I was eating a lot of baked beans at the time.

The Allegory of the Cave in Plato’s Republic compares our sensory perception of reality to that of prisoners shackled in a cave, only able to perceive reality by the shadows they see cast on a bare wall. Plato suggests that there is a truer form of reality unknown to our senses, a world of ideas, that represents a more constant and greater truth. These ideal forms are ideas of perfection, a blueprint of a thing from which the varying forms of our reality derive. Therefore when we see a Chihuahua and a Great Dane we recognise them both as dogs, despite their differences, through our knowledge of the ideal form of what a dog is – like a sort of metaphysical Crufts.

The ideal form theory put me in mind of a dog-shaped jelly mould from which all dogs are made. That all the ingredients required would be mixed in the right quantities poured into the mould and left to set and then out pops your dog. Only if you didn’t have the right ingredients might you be able to use the ideal form to make a dog from anything you’ve got lying around? Just like when you’re cooking dinner but haven’t been shopping and decided to make do with whatever you’ve got left in the cupboard, could you pour baked beans into the perfect dog mould and it would still make a dog?


Title Dog Shaped Absence (fortuitously filled with Baked beans)
Year 2009
Materials Wood, wire mesh, papier mache, pinto beans, emulsion paint, PVA glue, clear varnish
Dimensions H:100cm W:50cm L:150cm


  • If you fancy casting off the shackles and getting out of the cave you can find a complete translation of Plato’s Republic here
  • Or if you just want to sound clever at dinner parties you can read the wikipedia page here (recommended).


Should I do anything worth emailing about, filling your details in below will greatly increase your chances of finding out about it.