Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What Is Sculpture?

Sculpting. The artist at Play?
(A presentation introducing sculpture to students of sculpture course)

Calder at Play
The Basis of sculpture is play. Its remembering when you were a child and remembering the feeling you had when you were immersed in your own world of make believe. I was 12 when Star Wars came out. I must have made models and drawings of every spaceship and character in the film. I used cardboard, toilet rolls, kitchen rubbish bottle tops, biscuit tins, old damaged toys, wire, airfix model kits, bostik glue, and just about anything I could get my hands on. I made my own fully functioning light sabre out of kitchen paper rolls painted silver and a detachable bamboo stick painted with luminescent paint.

Making sculpture is based on the same impulse that wanting to make your own toys as a child is based upon and we can see this very clearly in this video of American sculptor Alexander Calder demonstrating his circus.

I saw this in the Whitney museum in New York when studying as an art student many years ago. It had a profound effect on me. You can see that all of Calder's "serious" sculpture emerges from this way of working and thinking. Its a completely natural way to think and be. Its naive and beautiful, it is innocent and charming. In many ways it is childlike. Being a sculptor means putting yourself in touch with this side of yourself. Your inner child. Being an artist means getting to know yourself. Everything you do as an artist emerges from this exploration. We depict an inscape of that world. This video delightfully shows an artist lost in themselves and contrary what we might expect when watching an artist at work, here we directly benefit from watching a theatrical display of this process in action.

Calder is true and honest in the portrayal of this inner action and we can only be delighted by the display it produces.

I remember as a child when I was ill I had a little jotter that I filled with small copperwire drawings selotaped into the pages. I didn't know I was making a transition from 2D to 3D. I was just doing something that came naturally to me. It was only years later I saw the wire sculptures of Calder

If you want to explore a simple way to make sculpture try it for yourself. Get a pliers , snips and any wire you can find, (strip down electrical cable if you need) and see if you can make forms that are familiar to you, a household pet, a farm animal or even a self portrait... It is a wonderful way of exploring most basic way of describing shapes and volumes. Recycling found materials is best. Maybe like Calder you can add different things like cork and wool to make these shapes even more alive.