Thursday, 2 July 2015

Sculpture Day 4

Having looked at the photographs I took of my sculpture, and listened to various comments about the work, I decided that enough was enough.  Barbara Hepworth wouldn't be caught doing a sculpture that could be mistaken for fighting hares, fat people dancing or headless chickens.

So it was time to get welding, scrimming and plastering, chisel off those rabbit ears, and not make the legs and other areas such an issue.  This is a sculpture about the surface texture, not the hares/chickens etc.

Meanwhile, others in the class were making far better progress...

Marco slept by the door.  Mary's waste mould sat on the step, ready for the jesmonite pouring process, which drew a small audience.

Time to start putting the copper sheeting down the centre of the piece.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Sculpture Day 3

It's funny that I made so much progress in a very short time on Monday, then today my sculpture seems to have not changed very much at all, despite having spent another whole day working on it.

I'm trying not to anthropomorphise it, but it does rather look like two funny little figures clinging on to each other in a strange dance....

It's not what I started out to do at all.  Here's a close-up of the surface.

Even if I'm getting nowhere, it's strangely satisfying to spend a day working like this, with my hands in a bucket of plaster, and chipping away at the form with a big scraper.


From this angle, they look more like fighting hares, and that's not good.  Tomorrow, the rabbit ears will have to go...this is a serious sculpture.  Behave yourselves.

It's been a hot day, and the big door of the workshop is open into the back lane.  There is a smell of unemptied bins, the sound of buzzsaws from the wood workshop across the way, the trains rattling on the track over the back wall.  Soulless drum and bass music plays across the back court, but is sometimes surprisingly interpersed by a distant song with a woman singing plaintively in an Eastern language, exotic and impassioned.

Everything is a bit grimy and dusty - even the clean bits.  There are children from the surrounding tenements who come to sit on the step of the workshop, and who chatter away in Romanian and pet Victoria's dog Marco.  Patient, good-natured Marco is the handsome model for Victoria's sculpture, which she's made with a metal armature and clay worked over the top.

Because the door is wide open, people come and go, drop in, borrow tools, make cups of tea, and chat about what's going on in the neighborhood.

Here's Marco the sandwich-snaffling, banana-loving model, and Marco the sculpture.  

Mary is sitting on the step with her sculpture, which is for a statue for her garden.  The figure is going to have ivy sprouting from the hands.  Made in clay, the figure has been encased in a plaster jacket to take a mould.  When hard, the plaster will have the clay removed from the centre, and the space filled with a durable material such as concrete or jesmonite, suitable for going outdoors. 

And so another day goes by.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

What This Hand Has Done Today...

So what's this chubby hand been sculpting today?

Opinions range from seed pods...

to animal bones... two figures...

...depending on which angel you look at it from.

I'm a great believer in letting the object become itself, and not being too prescriptive. It will tell you what it wants to be.

It's just I'm not sure even it knows what it wants to be yet.

Meanwhile, in a corner of the workshop far, far away, the Death Star is being constructed.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Sculpture Workshop Day One

It's day one of my sculpture workshop, and I thought you'd like to see how far you can get in a day.

I started off with the idea of several pieces that I've seen that all had elements that interested me.

I liked the simplicity and surface texture of this very feminine piece, with its painted plaster surface

Barbara Hepworth, Single Form

I liked the exciting pitted surface marks of this huge Henry Moore piece, which looks like a whale bone, although I didn't like the clumsiness of the shape.

Henry Moore, Three Way Piece No.1: Points 1964-65 (plaster with surface colour, hessian on wood support)  Photo: Jennifer Hicks 

I liked the organic, coral-like sway of this marble, one of the final pieces by Michelangelo in Milan. It's quite abstract, especially as it has the remains of another sculpture still visible as part of it (an arm on the left hand side).  On the back, it has a variety of exciting mark-making.

I decided that for my week-long workshop, I wanted to do a plaster piece, with lots of surface markings, contrasted with smooth painted surfaces.  I wanted to do something fairly abstract, with an organic feel.  Other than that, I'd let the object become itself, and rely on found objects and odd lengths of welding rod in the studio, so I wasn't going to be too prescriptive.

I started by using a found piece of steel for the base plate, and welding together an armature of found and cut rods to make a roughly bicuspid shape, like a seed pod.

I placed the structure on a wheeled trolley, so I can easily move it around to work on, and cut long lengths of scrim which I draped on the armature.  I then prepared buckets of casting plaster, dipped the scrim in, applied it to the armature, and then applied handfuls of plaster to the form to create the volume.

I think you'll agree that so far, it looks absolutely nothing like anything!!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

In The Studio

Latest paintings on the go...

...some more California poppies and honesty from my garden...
...poppies at the North Berwick with the Bass Rock in the background...
...and an atmospheric landscape.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Silver Ticket - Barbara Hepworth

My invitation has arrived for the special private view of the major Barbara Hepworth retrospective at Tate Britain.

It's the first major retrospective in London of the sculptor's work in 50 years.  And I'm going!!

I was at the Hepworth Wakefield the other week to see complementary exhibitions about her work, as a scene-setter for the Tate show.

The first was Hepworth in Yorkshire, about her early years in Wakefield, which sets the scene for her later working life.  It's interesting that Hepworth's very RP accent which you can hear in later documentaries and films doesn't betray anything of her Yorkshire roots - all part of her careful self-image and projection of herself as an international artist.

Here she is on holiday at Robin Hood's Bay in 1925 - as ever, her pose shows that she is very conscious of her artistic image, even early on.
Barbara Hepworth on holiday at Robin Hood's bay, 1925 Photo: BROWNES, HEPWORTH ESTATE

This is a recently discovered early portrait of Hepworth by Ethel Walker.

The second exhibition was A Greater Freedom, focussing on her prolific final decade (because artists don't retire), in which she explored new materials such as marble and bronze.  I have to say, I find that the more expensive and precious her materials became, the less connection I have with the work, finding it too sterile and uninteresting.  It looks coldly over-finished, over-processed, lacking in that warm, tactile, sensual quality.

Three Forms (Bronze, 1971)

However, this decade also saw her purchasing the Palais de Danse in St Ives in 1961, the large space opposite her studio (which has, excitingly, just been purchased by Tate St Ives).  This large space allowed her to take on such monumental commission such as Single Form for the United Nations.

Here's the photo I took of Single Form last time I was in New York (amidst construction work at the UN).

There was also a great display of her printmaking, which showed that she was very interested in the simple, textural marks that you can get on the zinc lithography plate, and of gestural, fluid water-like marks that are possible in the print process.  This mark making has everything thing to do with an artist's interest in a print as means to an end, and as a source material for exploring mark-making possibilities, rather than a print-makers obsession with process.

As ever, it was a joy to look at her plasters, with their wonderful, warm surface textures and painted patinas (which in their watery, gestural sweeping brushmarks, are reminiscent of her prints).  They demanded to be touched.

Which sadly, you can't.  Here's the much much smaller plaster for the UN piece, in the main room of the Hepworth Wakefield.  It has an incised circle instead of the cut-through hole of the UN piece, a pitted surface texture like a natural stone or marble, and a lovely sweep of coloured washes in burnt sienna and Paynes grey, with a beautiful pink tinge of rose quinacridone at the bottom...

...and a beautiful tactile groove running up the back that you just want to run your finger down.  Which again, sadly, you can't.

There's also a wonderful display of how her plasters are created, with the armature

and the finished piece in plaster

which would then go on to be cast in bronze.  Here it is in Hepworth's garden at her studio in St Ives.  The bronzes in the garden are meant to be viewed in the context of the shapes of the plants and the sunlight and shadows of the garden.  You can often see how the shapes of the sculptures make reference to and play against, for example, the organic shapes of the cheeseplant or cacti in her greenhouse.

The Wakefield gallery is first rate at showing the tools of the trade, and explaining the processes.  Inspiring stuff.

Next week I'm off on a week long sculpture course, and as well as looking forward to the Tate show, I'll be taking a lot of what I saw in Wakefield to my sculpture class.


Monday, 22 June 2015

Why Has No-one Thought Of This Before?

Mirrored beach hut, Worthing beach, by ECE Architecture

Of course it will look beautiful until...

it gets attacked by seagulls
birds fly into it
it gets covered in guano
dogs pee on it
it gets smeared with ice-cream
the mirrors gets broken with stones
etc etc.

But it is beautiful.  I don't know why, but it is.  

It has a sort of simple joy.