Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Three Pieces

These three pieces are now mounted in their boxes and on the studio wall It only remains to polish the actual figures and add a protective coating. Reading from left to right they are; Cruciform, Untitled Female Figure and Untitled Male Figure. The smaller box is ten inches (25 cm) tall and the other two are seventeen inches (42.5 cm) tall.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cathedra update

Painted some of the component parts today and set it up as a sub-assembly to see how its going to look. The black box it all fits into stands 33 inches tall. The figure that will sit on the throne is yet to be carved. A piece of limewood is sitting on the bench waiting. Meanwhile here is a clay maquette of the figure sitting on a corrugated cardboard mock-up of the throne.

I've painted the backgrounds for some of the other pieces, all of which are at various stages of construction. This is a sub-assembly of a so far untitled piece.

"Untitled Male" is its provisional name. A reaching figure holding an ovoid form (egg?) aloft. I plan on colouring the "egg" to appear as if glowing with some sort of energy but having seen it so far with only the white primer I wonder if white might be better. I'll have to have a think about that. The figure is made from obeche wood and is as yet unpolished. That will be the next job with this particular piece.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


At the moment I have six sculptures in various stages of completion. None of them actually are completed as I spend a little bit of time on each. They are to be carvings mounted in boxes and there is to be a painting or sometimes a construction forming a backdrop to set the theme for that particular piece. One of them is a reaching figure I featured earlier here.
Most of them have been fairly straightforward, carve the figure, design the backdrop and paint it fit it all in the box. But one in particular offers up a challenge at every stage. As each snag comes up I have to put the work to one side and let it stew for a while. The answer always seems to come up at three o'clock in the morning! But so far each obstacle has been overcome in this way. The piece is to be called "Cathedra" when its completed. Shown here is the working drawing I have up on the studio wall.

A cathedra is the bishop's throne in a cathedral which is why the building is so named. There are similar thrones in monasteries for the abbot or prior. As the drawing shows, I have a figure seated on a throne (cathedra) in front of a backdrop of Gothic arches.I got the idea from visits to several cathedrals, especially Exeter with its high ornate throne. Strangely the one at Canterbury is quite a plain affair. There is a very old example, the Frid Stool, at Hexham Abbey in Northumberland.
Making this should have been quite straightforward and probably would have been had I decided to simply make a painting as a backdrop. But this is a sculpture. I want to show this in 3D and am constructing the perpendicular style arches.Getting each component to fit properly has not been without its problems. It is all starting to come together now but has taken far longer than expected. I sometimes think it might have been easier to do a construction of a complete cathedral rather than just a component of it. The whole thing is to fit inside a box whose internal dimensions are 4" (10 cm) wide by 32" (80 cm) tall. The entire piece to be wall mounted. I'll post a picture of the completed work when its done.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Guardians

A commentary on some of my work with special reference to a sculptural group in 2009.
Myth, fairy-tale and legend form the background of a series of  works which also examines the body language of ritual.

“The Guardians” is a group of sculptural figures arranged in a circle. Currently only in model or maquette form but ideally should be life-size or even larger, possibly one and a half times this. I envisage the group placed in a  relatively remote but not inaccessible place such as a small clearing in a forest and the piece approached via a path taking an indirect route to it. See also this link.

The outer circle are a group of people with a shared understanding, or knowledge. The six who make up the majority of the group are presided over by a seventh whose hood signifies her as some form of priestess; she has the role of leader, messenger, servant and trustee of the group as need arises. She is also the collective voice or mouthpiece. Their purpose is to be a collective unity to protect a sacred truth. Hence the title, for guardians they indeed are. The kneeling figure is the stranger at the gate. The gate being the gap in the foreground of the circle as viewed here.

The Stranger at the Gate
One who approaches the circle. In a life-sized sculpture this could well be the one who visits the sculpture. Who is this stranger who approaches the circle? An uninvited stranger could be on the one hand, a chosen one for some ritual whether as prospective sacrificial victim or slave of the group while on the other hand may be a supplicant requesting help or again, may wish to become a part of the group.

The invited stranger adopts the same body language but in this case the group have need of the stranger’s services. An invited stranger may well serve the group but not necessarily become a member.

The Numbers of the Group
Seven is a magic number as is five, three and nine. An odd-numbered group has an even number of members plus one. The balance and its fulcrum. Thus an addition would create an imbalance as there would be no fulcrum figure. Three, five, seven; but what of the nine?
Nine has the potential for imbalance, - it is three times three, or thee groups of which one is the fulcrum which would be a troika. Who leads the troika? Nine is the larger number and should be the stronger with a cube root of three. So what about three? Three has one fatal flaw. The saying “Two’s company and three’s a crowd carries some merit. Two strong figures and one weak. Two for a one-to-one unity, the third is rejected or at best, sidelined.
Tolkien took this further in The Lord of the Rings:-
             “Three rings for the elven-kings under the sky,
              Three rings for the dwarf-lords in their 
                                   halls of stone,
              Three rings for all mortals doomèd  to die
              And one ring to find them and keep them as one.”

A tenth item to control the flawed thrice three. Thus we have an even number, ten, which is fatally flawed for should the stranger be malevolent, then control of the One will control the potentially unstable nine; and herein lies the irony. Darkness rising. The foundation of all good-versus-evil stories.
A small digression from this little numbers game:-
The forces of evil are numerically strong while the forces of good are numerically weak. The evil, or “dark” side soon gain the advantage but for one fatal flaw. If that tenth particle is removed  i.e. the dark side decimated, then the forces of good will prevail.
Now to look at the other numbers of five and seven.
A group of seven consists of two trios and a leader. Two’s company, three’s a crowd? Set them in a circle. Three couplets where each member compliments its opposite. Each of the opposites find stability in the fulcrum. Look for example at the Seven Sisters or the Corona Borealis. Such energy passes through the fulcrum to focus on the centre. Stone circles appear to work on this principle. This group of seven has not only a numerical stability but a sense of balance that appeals to the aesthetic felt at an instinctive level. However, such a septimal arrangement has a more inviting aesthetic where a gateway exists opposite the fulcrum where a visitor can either remain or go on to the centre.
Five is not so inviting. The five points of the pentacle have no central focal point though entry may be less daunting than its sevenfold equivalent. It begs the question, - is the energy of a pentimal formation defensive/protective? That is, is its purpose to protect those within and focus its energies on keeping malicious forces at bay while conversely, is the focus of a septimal formation in the centre energising those within?

The Human Factor
So far the numerology and geometry has been discussed to set the stage for a mythical drama. It takes the human aspect to shape events. There are those who wish to be left in peace to get on with their lives, those who will defend that right and act for the good of all and there are those who wish to have it all to themselves and control everything and everyone. Usually it is the one who seeks total control has turned away from his fellow beings and alienated him/herself. As such a one becomes more powerful, that very power has to be used to bend other’s will to this end. A titanic struggle of opposing forces ensues and (usually) it takes an innocent or naïf to be the one to tip the scales so that evil is vanquished and good prevails.

The Guardians? They stand still, and watch, and while Middle-Earth remains in harmony with itself there is no need for action.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Healer

Regular readers may recall seeing this  image as part of the second picture posted here. This drawing  is 40 x 50 cm. and is intended to be developed into a painting at some point. Actually I'm having to plan what I do and when, in the studio just now. At the moment I'm  making a number of carvings. That generates a lot of dust. Not a good environment to make paintings in, so such work is on "hold" for the time being.

So, what about this image, The Healer?

I am in two minds whether to call it that or give it the Greek title Therapeia (Θεραπέια) or even The Comforter. The healer not only heals or helps to heal, physical wounds but also emotional and spiritual ones too. While physical damage may require the application of dressings, medication and nursing care, emotional healing and dare I say, spiritual healing responds at a much deeper level through contact, communication and compassion for ones fellow beings regardless of who they may be. Sometimes it is enough to just listen, and be seen to listen. Response is not always necessary. Indeed the healer may be quite unable to offer practical advice but the fact they have taken the trouble to care is often enough.