Like many artists working in the post-war period, Paolozzi was interested in contemporary developments in science and technology and in themes of growth and rebirth. Artists looked to nature and constructed their work on organic principles, inspired by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s influential book ‘On Growth and Form’, revised in 1942, which was illustrated with pictures of cellular structures. In the 1951 group exhibition ‘Growth and Form’ at the ICA in London, artworks were displayed among X-rays, scientific films and blown-up photographs from microscopes. The shapes in this sculpture suggest plants emerging from the ground with their roots below, as found in botanical models.
This sculpture was first made in plaster while the artist was living in Paris, and was cast in bronze in England at a later date. While in Paris, Paolozzi met the sculptor Giacometti and visited his studio. This strange object is similar to sculptures Giacometti made while working with the surrealist group. It has been suggested that this sculpture may derive in some way from the bone structure of a fish, with the central 'table' being the backbone while smaller bones spring away from it. Cut-away botanical models in science museums may also have helped suggest the motif.
Of Italian descent, Paolozzi was born in Leith near Edinburgh. He studied in Edinburgh and London and spent two years in Paris from 1947, where he produced enigmatic, bronze sculptures reminiscent of those by Giacometti. During the same period he made a series of dada and surrealist-inspired collages in which magazine advertisements, cartoons and machine parts are combined, thus anticipating the concerns of Pop Art. Alongside teaching at various art schools he developed his printmaking and sculpture. Paolozzi was particularly interested in the mass media and in science and technology.