What is sculpture?

Connections, Making

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My Dad gave me a brilliant article titled, “When does art become art?” by John-Paul Stonard. Stonard argues that when we look at art “we depend overwhelmingly on the presence of the artist’s name”. Is it the ‘art’ that makes the artists rather than the other way around? “We take the thing we are looking at as ‘art’ because we have been told that it has been made by an artist”.

But what makes an artist an artist?

Micheal Craig Martin’s theory is, “As soon as you make a piece of art, you’re an artist”. You can only emerge in the art world as an artist if the work of art gives credit to the master. So the artwork has to be of a standard or quality? However, I am not sure we see that so much nowadays. It is not always about a thing of beauty. For my husband the idea that if you make art you are an artist doesn’t feel right. His idea is that to be an artist it is a level that you achieve when you combine, creativity, ideas and natural talent along with years of practise. My husband’s opinion is that:

“Art is like a world in a different galaxy, you have to travel for years to get to it and when you arrive anything you create becomes art”. 

His answer to the question ‘What is sculpture?’ is that it sculpture is a statement which shares the space with the viewer. It isn’t alive but it is a strong element or subject.

An old colleague of mine, having seen my endless Instagram stories about, ‘what is sculpture’ sent me a message saying his University tutor once said, “sculpture is the thing you bump into when you step back to look at painting”. Before meeting the sculptor I was always so much more interested in painting, I think for me art was painting. Where as now I feel there is something a little more sophisticated about sculpture. There is more of an avenue for abstraction and ambiguity. I was always interested in whether abstract art was a way forward or a dead-end? I think my opinion on that is ever-changing.

However, historically sculpture had more focus and attention. Monuments erected to dominate and display power and prowess. In the past, the Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans used their sculptures to connect people with gods. Sculptures were used to overpower people with the presence of three dimensional statues deemed to be a deity. Rulers had sculptures made of themselves. Sculpture was valued and therefore a method to mark out a society.

Duchamp changed the art world with his theory that the role of the viewer completed the work and created a total withdrawal from physically completing work. Heidegger in his ‘Origin of the Work of Art’ in  1935 argues that the artist remains inconsequential.lifeboat-2

“Beginning with art, rather than the artist , returns to the poetry of art”

The Industrial Revolution changed the possibilities available to sculptors. Carving had always been the main skill perhaps where as now fabricating, assembling, combining together materials seem to all be sculptural qualities. After the rise of modernism, the artist became able to manufacture all sorts of materials for the production of sculpture. Duchamp’s radical gesture opened the doors to different ways of generating sculpture. But the lines are now blurred between art forms. What about the statement, ‘You can’t have art without a creator’? Studios in the sixties changed as the factory and fabricators started to be more involved. The removal of carving out your craft, chipping away at a material to create a figure  was no longer the only means by which to produce form. So there isn’t just one person involved in the process but maybe just one person with the idea.

tube form

 

Other influences were nature and organic form on sculpture. Bio-morphism in art relates to the integration of natural and organic form into a work. These works sometimes look amorphous. Suddenly sculpture doesn’t have to be about form or focus on the human body. It opens up an avenue for a whole new exploration into shape, structure, space, line, dimensions.

I think if you look at a Shendi Sculpture, whether you understand it or not, it can be appreciated, observed and will stand the test of time. This is what I am unsure about with the more conceptual sculptures of today. In years to come will it still be able to exist without an ‘artist’ or ‘curator’ placing the ‘objects’ together in their ‘correct’ positions.

Is it all in the labels? Labels on the walls in the galleries, labels that we give people, labels that we give things. Lawerence Scott who was speaking on Russell Brand’s podcasts, Under the Skin last week touched on this idea of labelling and words. My interpretation of what was said, was that we label things in order to define them. Sometimes that definition packages things into boxes when the whole point is to try to think outside the box. Words sometimes are not quite enough to describe what we mean.

I asked our boys, “what is sculpture?” and the eldest replied, “it’s a man-made form which has meaning”. We have been discussing and questioning, as we constantly see new work, which we wonder whether fits in our 11 year olds definition.

Creativity today seems to come down to ideas and in the sculptural sense you can simply present an idea, which can then be classed as art. Classified as ‘art’, only if you are an established ‘artist’, of course.

'chemo 2007'

I’m not sure whether there is any conclusion to this question, but endless opportunities for discussion and I guess that ultimately is the point of art.

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‘Toy’ to a new home

Conceptual, Philosophy

Another blogger /writer, a mother, wrote about how she put all the children’s toys in black bin liner and hid them in the studio. She left just one or two toys out and if the child asked for something particular she resurrected it. She noticed however that her child was playing more imaginatively and productively. I quite regularly re-home toys in an effort to make more space especially in the boys shared room. They are sometimes good at giving things to charity. We recently split a large basket of animals into piles of which we would keep and ones we would give away. This was a little harder as the eldest loves animals, so some that were originally for charity crept back into the basket. I wish I could be as ruthless and bag everything up and start with a blank slate again, introducing just a few toys. Even I find it difficult though to let go, a hoarder by heart. I will pick something up and think ‘ah but they played so nicely with that last month!’ We attach ourselves to things unnecessarily. We place value on them to much.

Yesterday, on returning from the studio finishing off getting ‘The Toy’ ready my husband likened creating a sculpture to being a mother. I understood the analogy but I don’t agree (that’s the mother speaking). However, I totally understood that he felt a little saddened in saying goodbye to ‘The Toy’ which he is taking today to a new home. It was a piece that started on our kitchen table with ‘Blood, sweat and tears’. For this piece is in some ways so more than a sculpture, it is a concept, an idea, a philosophy. One day it would be fantastic to produce it in bronze. It is a piece which often produces a negative reaction. Unlike most of the other works it holds a dark, disturbing image but sometimes it is those harder to swallow ideas that have the strongest message.

This piece is different from the majority of the work but my husband couldn’t find any better way to present his thoughts. With these mediums and this design, it speaks about the 21st century, the society that we live in. The fact the most people work hard and yet don’t go anywhere, like a rocking horse. However long it rocks it stays in the same place. The skeleton is black to show the time that we are in, when fuel has become more important than human life or any living creature, think oil spills and images of birds and sea creatures coated in petrol. The horse-tail, is real horse hair represents the focus on our bodies, going to the gym, looking good, good diet etc. Similar to he technique for a horse race, constantly looked after, good diet, great exercise trained for the ‘race’. Wins only to make the owner very rich. We have become a ‘toy’ to our bosses, to our society and to our media. Played with and manipulated somehow. We believe that this is the normal life the life we are supposed to have. Work 9 till 5, 6 days a week, sleep 8 hours, have three-course meal and wish to live longer..when we could end up being in a nursing home, sitting down on a rocking chair thinking that you lived the life in full. This is an observation of the way our society has become obsessed with material aspects of life, of being in the spotlight not thinking beyond.

toy home

‘The Toy’ by Sam Shendi. 2012

 

Art can be aesthetically pleasing and beautiful but sometimes we need to stop and think and the ‘shock value’ in this piece is intended for that. ‘The Toy’ spent the last six months at Cartwright art Gallery and Museum being viewed by the public and we were given a copy of the fantastic and intriguing comments. Now it moves to a private collection. We have to let go.

(…..yes the’ Frozen’ lyric does spring to mind but immediately wipe it out your mind. I looked up synonyms but nothing else fit )

The Owl Challenge

Drawings, Relationships
Mr. Owl

‘Owl’

So from the heights of previews and openings in London to the day-to-day drawings at home with his boys. Today’s challenge from our eldest son was to draw an owl never seen before. Even I had ago! (though I am not going to upload my drawings on here) This mixes the cartoon designer, the interest in fashion and the conceptual sculptural ideas all in one sketch! Happy sketching:)

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Conceptual, Drawings, Making

All a bit gory in the title, but then this expression summed up the day. It started two days ago when I came home in the middle of the day and was transferring my sleeping toddler from car to house. As I made my way up the stairs I got a little spooked to see a tall figure in the kitchen out of the corner of my eye. A full size skeleton had landed. For the last couple of days the kitchen and back yard have been the workshop. So we have had body parts lying around on the worktop and kitchen table. It is not a real human I must make clear, we have not gone as far as Damien Hirst. However, it may be a bit religiously controversial but that sparks debate.

‘The Toy’

I am hesitant about putting up sketches, although it shows the working process. The sketch is the first stage, the next stage is sprawled around our house making it rather cold as the back door is open due to the drilling that has been going on. When I told my eldest son what had happened today he immediately sobbed, a mixture of empathy and worry I think. His tears were heartfelt. So this is the blood addition, whilst drilling some of the parts together, I am not sure how the drill went through the skeletal sculpture bone into my husband’s hand, Ouch! but it did. I personally thought it looked like it had just touched the bone but he merely brushed it off as the first layer of skin (think we are talking more like subcutaneous layer actually). So in true Egyptian style he simply superglued it together. Rather fortunate I just happened to buy some at the beginning of the week to glue back together a wooden frame in the boy’s room which I have been meaning to do for months.

So the Sculptor is sore but still drilling away. So what has the sweat got to do with it? All this hard work, this  piece had been the most physically exerting, and challenging. It  made me think about how we define hard work. In the Uk we are constantly on a treadmill, we seem to think that if we have ‘sweated’ hard for something then we are more deserving of it. Although people talk about work life balance, I don’t see it. The majority of people live to work.

The question of what art is also arose. My husband pointed out that the majority of his work was purely from the imagination in his head, whilst this piece is the ‘idea’, putting something that already exists in a new way. People often comment about conceptual art that, ‘they could do it’. It is ideas and concept that create debate. Of course, in my own head I am now even more concerned about the sparks that may fly about this piece. However, there is an important message behind this work.

This image below was taken earlier, I have just been called through to see the finished body on the kitchen table. 14 hours later and 72 pieces assembled. A lot of blood, sweat and tears for one day.

‘The Toy’ – in progress