Here are some of my works (Lizard, Man, Elephant) and those of friends. We were privileged to take classes from Jean Claude Chiaberge, metal sculptor whose works are also shown here (Ned Kelly, Don Quixote). Click on the thumbnails for the slide show.
About Metal Sculpture
The focus of the works herein is on the relationship of the sculptures with the actual world. When utilising metal, one needs to consider the qualities of each material. As sheets of metal (iron, copper etc.) are shaped, the change inherent in the metal becomes the central factor of the art.
This process is contrary to the traditional artistic approach in which one conceives of an idea first and then develops the idea using appropriate media. There are four stages in metal sculpture of this sort.
a. The Form – Physical Shaping
Metal as raw material is malleable only to a certain degree. One could force it into a desired shape; as some painters who turned to metal sculpture have done. Such finished works have often been criticised as being ‘dead’.
The artists here prefer to allow the metal to ‘speak’. For example, we’d begin with an idea, not knowing what the finished work will be or should be like; we play with the material, beating it into shape, heating it, cutting it, welding it, even adding discarded bits to it etc. Over time, the material will take a certain form. That is the metal piece ‘speaking’ on behalf of the artist – hopefully coinciding with the original idea.
The time the sculpture is considered to have being ‘formed’, is the critical moment for the artist. Should she/he add more detail, contuse or unbend certain sections or remove some parts?
b. The Context – Life
Once the physical shaping is at end, the artist begins adding detail; holes may be burnt out, bits melted, sharp edges may be intentionally left or filed down. The piece may be reheated and bent in order to achieve a certain stance, limbs rotated, moveable parts unsoldered or reshaped, in order to show movement. When this stage is done, the work is considered to have been placed in context. The sculpture is suppose to related with the actual world.
Grain enhancement, grinding, imposed texture and abrasive finishing is emplyed with coloration. The role of colour is to create lifelikeness or amplify unreality, to unify and enhance the decorative aspects of the work. Although finishing and colour is thought of as a secondary characteristic of a sculpture, it is a key factor in the visual coherence and significance of object and therefore, is of prime coherence. Techniques include annealing, heating, corrosion (natural or forced through chemicals), waxing and painting. As an example, I like to treat a piece with acid and allow it to ‘mature’, exposed to the sun and rain.
d. The Final Work
By taking the work out of stasis and allowing it to be a living, changing object, the artist who began the work, allows nature to finish them. In other cases, the work may be sand-blasted, painted or hot waxed. In this case, change occurs more slowly over time – but change does happen.
Some changes are obvious within the viewers lifetime, whilst in others the the evolvement of the sulpture is more subtle. Time being infinite, makes change inevitable (I can’t remember who said this…. ). Ultimately, the works are not meant to simply withstand the effect of time, but rather to be enriched by it. PS: I love the rust on some of these sculptures, though some may disagree.
The above was penned for our joint exhibition that took place in Grasse in 1996 – Ed.