Part 3 of the course involves creating models in clay and then developing large works, based on these or earlier sculptures, into larger scale plaster sculptures.
I found working in clay very liberating. I deliberately chose to create, destroy and recreate without any intention of making a permanent work. This allowed me to take risks, pursue ideas to success or failure, and carve away at a model to destruction. This risk-taking lead to a greater degree of success than I would have otherwise achieved, even if the models only exist as sketches and photographs. The process allowed me to create several ideas which were worthwhile taking to a larger scale, in more permanent materials.
Whilst clay was wonderful for developing ideas, the difficulty I then experienced was translating these into a different medium and scale. My first attempt at modelling in plaster was a difficult process of understanding how to use the material. Against a criteria of ‘demonstration of technical skill’, I think my initial efforts with plaster have been a complete failure. My second piece was an improvement on the first, and, no doubt, one has to become completely familiar with a material before being able to exploit its strengths. In normal artistic practice, rather than course exercises, you would select the material to suit the design rather than trying to select a design to successfully execute in plaster.
Working in clay offered opportunities for experimentation, but once committed to a large form, experimentation is limited. I found it very useful to create small castings on which I could try out different finishes and using wooden skewers to reposition elements was extremely useful. However, I didn’t feel I was as experimental or imaginative as normal.
In the final work, I felt I was coming to some understanding of what my personal voice might be. I have found reading critical reviews of sculpture particularly helpful in helping me understand what I enjoy about sculpture and what I am reaching for in my own work. I think considering mass and line is the key, which might seem obvious, but I hadn’t actively articulated this to myself. I am always excited by colour and texture but in sculpture, these two parameters need to be in the service of mass and line.
My final project isn’t particularly original; everyone remarks on how much it reminds them of Henry Moore’s work, but I guess this arises out of my consideration of mass and the subject matter. Herbert Reed, Moore’s trumpet, wrote ‘art is a highly contagious disease …. the eye of the artist feeds unconsciously on whatever formal motes come its way. To strive to be uninfluenced by the work of one’s predecessors or contemporaries is neither possible or desirable.’ (Read, 1964). I recognise that I am over influenced by Moore and Hepworth, but hope that they are signposts on the way to finding my own voice.
Read, H. (1964) Modern Sculpture: A Concise History (World of Art). New York, NY: Distributed by W.W. Norton.