Today I completed my submission for the Luxembourg Art Prize for emerging artists (at 61 years old I suspect I may be the oldest emerging artist making a submission!).
'A stone’s throw from the prestigious Avenue de la Liberté, the new art gallery has just opened. Born from the immeasurable passion for art of Hervé Lancelin, collector and art consultant. With its gleaming walls, its serene atmosphere and its exceptional lighting, the new gallery has been cleverly designed and refined over nearly a year. The results are dazzling.' (Luxemburger Wort) You can see some details about the gallery here:
The sculpture has taken quite a while to come to fruition. I wanted to make a sculpture that responded to world events but such a work was likely to be a 'gallery piece' and so I needed to have somewhere it might be exhibited. Coming across the Luxembourg Art Prize gave me an opportunity to make the sculpture in the hope that it might be accepted and seen by the public. It meant that I could give some serious thought to what I might make. I knew I wanted it to be figurative and that I would not be using a life model (as is my usual preference what making figurative sculpture). Not working from life brings challenges and opportunities. When working from the life model it can be easy to become fixated upon anatomical details at the expense of the intended 'vision' for the work, whereas working without a model allows freedom from such attention to smaller details. That said, the lack of a model also brings with it the frustration of lack of information, relying totally upon the knowledge (or lack of it) of proportion and anatomy. I had to try to remember that exaggerated proportions can be fundamental to expression as is evident in the work of many sculptors.
I knew that my work would not be of the nude but would consist of a clothed group. It was my intention to make a sculpture that responded to the plight of the sea of humanity forced to become refugees. The work was to be challenging and ambiguous. I wanted it to pose questions. It is these criteria that led to the choice of scale (approximates 1.25 life size), figures, pose, title and media.
The process involved assembling separate pieces of expanded polystyrene (EPS) before roughing out the forms by carving them. It was quite a lengthy process as the pieces had to be made to 'fit' together, sometimes being fixed with polyurethane foam, at other times fixed with metal rods, embedded into the pieces and held in place with Jesmonite. Once this was completed the roughed out forms were covered with Jemonite coated burlap or aluminium mesh, glass-fibre filled Jesmonite or coaxial stitched glass before being further coated, modelled and carved in Jesmonite before the head of the adult was created in clay.
Before the head could me modelled an armature was made and fixed in place on the figure to support the clay and modelling in situ, to begin. Clay was used as I needed to add details to the face with greater ease and efficiency but used in a manner that was not ditictly different from the Jesmonite bodies. Once this had been done the clay was coated in silicone rubber before a glass-fibre reinforced 3 piece jacket was created for the mould. This was then removed from the figure and opened in order to make a Jesmonite head to be added to the figure. Mould-making is not something I enjoy, but was a necessary evil in this case. Once added I was able to work on the head using more Jesmonite in order to bring the head and body together.
I had always intended to finish the figures with rusted iron by coating the Jesmonite in an iron rich paint and adding acid to activate the rust finish. The figures stand on a Jesmonite Portland stone base. The end result is a sculptural figure group standing 237cm high (within the 300cm height limit for submissions), which can be separated into two parts at the adult torso; the completed work being light enough to be shipped and moved on arrival.
So, the sculpture is finished after a couple of months of work. I am not sure, even now, whether I have succeeded. I see lots of areas within the work that I know are anatomically inaccurate or brutish in their form, but the overall impression is extremely close to that which I had intended. I have submitted it and leave the decision to others as to whether it is worthy of exhibiting. I want it to be accepted predominantly for it to be seen, rather than for any accolade or prize. A work such as this is of little worth if it is not seen by the public.
Ten artists will be selected by 30 June at the latest by an artistic committee chaired by Hervé Lancelin. The finalists will exhibit their work as a group at Galerie Hervé Lancelin from 23 September to 4 November 2017. I hope that 'Humanity' might be one of their number as I feel that having made the sculpture it will only have been worthwhile if it is seen by a wide audience.