Category Archives: Part 2

Planes: Construction / Deconstruction – Research

The course notes suggest looking at John Hoskins’ (1921-1990) ‘Bolted Flat’, 1963. As always when viewing a small image in a book, it is difficult to asses the sculpture completely, but the interest for me in this sculpture comes from the texture of the welded seams and the stripped patterns on the inner surface, in contrast to the shiny smooth surface of the outer surface. The piece references industrial construction and has a strong composition of the two pieces balancing each other, although looking like they are on the point of tipping.

Another course notes suggestion was Hans Uhlmann ‘Steel Relief’ 1959 and ‘Sculpture for the Berlin Opera House’ 1961. The former now looks very dated, the latter is a very bold and striking design which throws strong shadows onto the building to enhance it’s presence and it seems to sit well with the style of building it sits in front of.

In looking through the research suggestions I had to look up the definition of a ‘plane’ which was ‘an area of a two-dimensional surface having determinate extension and spatial direction or position’ (Dictionary.com, 2016). One of the course notes suggestions of these types of sculptures is Pevsner’s ‘Torso (Constructed), 1924-1926’, but whilst it has some planes in it’s construction, there are more curved plastic shapes than flat ones, so does this really count as a sculpture of planes? Is a sculpture of planes just one which only includes flat surfaces?

I was fortunate enough to be in Paris for a few days and spent some of this time searching out sculptures using planes.

Antoine Pevsner ‘Masque, 1923’ is a better example than the one given in the course notes:

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This is a constructivism sculpture out of Celluloid and zinc. It is interesting how the face can be reduced to a series of planes, however it does only work from one angle (straight on). The side view looks little like a face:

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The sculpture also looks very dated, maybe due to the materials used?

Naum Gabo’s ‘Constructed Head No. 2’, 1916 is given as another example in the course notes. This is a similar way of reducing a figure to planes as the sculpture above by his brother, but it looks like this sculpture works from more angles than just the straight on view. This sculpture also makes interesting use of asymmetry to give more interest and intrigue to the sculpture. I think this is the most successful sculpture in planes I have come across in my research.

Anthony Caro works primarily in planes. Whilst some of his sculptures work for me, many of them don’t – see exhibition review (LINK). I think his small table pieces are some of my favourites, such as ‘Table Piece LXXX’ 1969:

Table Piece LXXX

A lot of Dina Wind’s work uses planes. Eg. 1984 – Black Flat Plane Series #1 (View #1). These are like origami in steel, but don’t inspire me as the flat single colour sculptures lack texture and interest.

Sidney Gordin ‘Construction No. 7, 1954’. I like the combination of open rod planes and flat solid planes used in this sculpture. The mixture of these makes this look like a more modern sculpture than it actually is.

David Smith pioneered the use of welded steel in sculpture and his work has been described as ‘drawing in air’ (Collins, 2007). ‘The Forest, 1952’ and ‘Hudson River Landscape, 1951’ are two examples of his work and this is exactly what they appear like, more drawings than sculptures. Although not completely flat, the ‘image’ is all on one plane and only a sculpture because it is freestanding and can be viewed from both sides. As a drawing I like it, but I can’t really see the benefit of taking it off the wall and putting it on a pedestal.

‘Raven IV, 1957’ is a more 3D sculpture, using planes in constructing the piece again, but this time by using small pieces of steel sheet or bar. The result looks more animal like than the intended bird, but this is an interesting way of working with planes, using small flat pieces to make up a 3D shape, which may yield some ideas for my work.

Sculptures using planes primarily seem to have been made in the 20’s or 50/60’s. Very few modern examples were very obvious. I tried harder to find some of these.

Terence Coventry uses planes a lot in his work, although the works I find most successful are his solid bronze pieces (e.g. http://www.terencecoventry.com/images/bronzes/main/36b.jpg and http://www.terencecoventry.com/images/bronzes/main/13b.jpg) – the way he translates animal or human forms into flat planes is very successful and I particularly like the surface texture he uses on his pieces from carving lines on them in plaster – ‘The way the surface texture is manipulated is definitely deliberate and through experience I’ve learnt that I can alter the viewer’s perception of the form by the way that texture is applied.’ (Terence Coventry, 2011).

Apart from a few exceptions, the sculpture I have found which uses planes doesn’t inspire me much – not a great start to this stage!

References:

Collins, J. (2007). Sculpture today. London: Phaidon Press Limited.

Davidsmithestate.org, (2016). The Estate of David Smith. [online] Available at: http://davidsmithestate.org/ [Accessed 17 Feb. 2016].

Dictionary.com, (2016). the definition of plane. [online] Available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/plane?s=t [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].

Dinawindart.com, (2016). Dina Wind Art. [online] Available at: http://www.dinawindart.com/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2016].

Phaidon, (2016). Agenda | Phaidon. [online] Available at: http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2016].

Tate.org.uk, (2016). Home. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2016].

Terence Coventry. (2011). 1st ed. [ebook] London: Pangolin. Available at: http://www.terencecoventry.com/downloads/terencecoventry1.pdf [Accessed 2 Mar. 2016].

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Project: Drawing and development

Just using flat 2D surfaces to create a 3D sculpture seems a very prescriptive restriction, given that the level 2 work is supposed to be less prescriptive in its approach. Hopefully something good will come out of it though.

The course notes suggest using life drawing to reduce the image and structure of the human form to its essence. On initial inspection, the figure would seem to be the worst subject to reduce into planes though!

I tried sketching out how a lying down figure might look in planes:

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Although maybe a good design for a robot, this didn’t inspire me.

I was really struggling to get any inspiration at all for this project through the use of planes only. However, having researched other artists work in this field, with the exception of Calder and a few others, most other artists combine planes with curves / solids / other shapes, so I will join them!

Introducing a sphere into the use of planes instantly opened up lots of ideas and I was finally fired up again!

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I decided that my aims for this stage would be:

  • Ensure I integrate drawing into my work in this stage – address one of my weaknesses
  • Combine different materials – this offers a lot of interest for me in sculptures
  • Work with new materials were possible
  • Adding in a personal aim to use bronze in every different stage of the course if possible (possibly after the event due to production timescales)

As suggested by my tutor, I combined the sketching with the maquette making (which worked more successfully for me), so most of the sketches are in the following project post.

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Exhibition Visit: Le Défense

During a recent visit to Paris, I took the opportunity of visiting Le Défense, the business district of the city, which houses over 60 pieces of outdoor sculpture.

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Related to this stage, ‘L’Araignée Rouge (the red spider), 1976’ by Alexander Calder was one of the largest and most prominent sculptures there. It certainly had a presence, despite its huge size it had lightness and movement in its curves, and it provided a nice frame for the area. My impression of it – “it’s OK”, but why wasn’t it really working for me? I suspect it was because it was too flat and lacked texture variation. It did work well in the space it was sited in though.

I toured the area looking at the majority of the sculptures on display in the area. Out of all of those on display, there were only two that held my attention.

‘Le Grand Toscano, 1983’ by Igor Mitoraj

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A bronze part of a figure, with other figure parts recessed or on top (despite it not really working from a rear view).

‘Les Hommes de la Cité, 1995’ by Hugues and France Siptrott

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A group of businessmen figures in bronze with highly textured line markings across them and interesting colouration.

What did these sculptures have in common?

  • in bronze, already a favourite material of mine
  • interesting textures / colours
  • both modelled
  • both figurative – an area I have not looked at in much detail yet
  • unusual
  • well made
  • invited speculation. Why the recessed head in front of the figures heart? Female head on a male body? What are the businessmen thinking?
  • enjoyment of the material coming through. The dynamic slashing of the businessmen figures, the sculpting of the figure shapes

I feel I am getting closer to working out what I appreciate/enjoy in a sculpture.

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Project: A maquette for the sculpture

I started to make maquettes of my ideas and also sketched new ideas at the same time.

Working with abstract shapes, I explored simple forms which started from the idea of using standing stone shapes, but ended up looking like sails or an aircraft tail fin:

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The two simpler maquettes work better as it gets a bit clunky in the third more complex form.

A sketch of the centre sphere and how it might be textured with a line that might be found on a water-worn rock:

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Other possible lines:

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In the large sketch it was the hidden aspect of the sphere I was interested in.

I tried a few more sketches surrounding it with flat sheets:

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However, when made up into a maquette it wasn’t working, it was too messy and contrived:

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I sketched some more:

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It is probably difficult to see on this photo, but a small sketch in the corner led me to think about using vertical sheets rather than bars:

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This was a more successful maquette for me.

Having thought about this for a while though, I realised that I hadn’t explored the hidden aspect enough and placing the metal sheets and sphere into a box might offer the result I was looking for:

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This one had legs for me and I decided to run with this for my larger-scale sculpture (in addition to one or two of the first maquette options).

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Project: Planes sculpture – Constructing

Constructing these sculptures required working with several different materials.

The bronze spheres were produced in wax using a plaster mould from a polystyrene ball. These were carved to add the water-worn patterns, then cut in half to cast.

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Once cast, they were tidied up, welded back together, holes drilled through and steel rod inserted, then patinated and waxed. I was really pleased with the way the colours worked on these.

P1040399 Sphere 1 Sphere 2 Spheres welded on

The steel shapes were cut out of sheet steel with a jigsaw or cutting disk on an angle grinder, texture was added to some pieces using a grinding disk, then the pieces were welded together and tidied up.

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Once assembled together, some pieces were treated with the bronze patination chemicals, others with a rust accelerator and then treated to seal and protect the metal from further rusting.

Metal innerBox middle 1 Box middle 2

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The wooden box for one of the sculptures was cut out of plywood, charred with a blow torch, stained and then further darkened with a dark varnish.

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Project: Planes sculpture – Final pieces

Wing

Wing01Wing02Wing03 Wing04

‘Wing’
38x45x15cm
Steel and bronze

Box

Box1sBox2s

‘Box’
40x22x20cm
Wood, steel and bronze

Untitled

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‘Untitled’
38x28x36cm
Steel and bronze

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Project: Planes sculpture – Reflection

‘Wing’

No artist was deliberately referenced with this piece, but the standing stone shape is one commonly used by Barbara Hepworth and the nodules on the side are reminiscent of the shapes Jean Arp and Miro used in their sculptures.

This was the least successful sculpture of the 3 in my opinion. The colours of the main body of the piece are too dark, the single flat piece is too one-dimensional and the rough edges of the piece don’t work with the flowing rounded shape of its outline. Also, the bronze pieces are a bit lost on this sculpture.

‘Box’

The sphere shapes on this and ‘Untitled’ were inspired by looking at the work of Lee Bontecou. I know little about her work at the moment, only that I think her work looks fantastic (see http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag04/march04/bontecou/bontecou.shtml). The hanging, futuristic, presumably space inspired sculptures are very appealing and look in some ways to be similar to what I imagine a 3D Kandinsky painting would look like. It is interesting to see how she mixes materials and I have ordered some of her books to look into her work further.

I initially produced a few spheres in clay for these sculptures, but decided that bronze offered more interest and the ability to ‘shine’ from within the sculptures.

Placing the spheres in cut-out circles of steel suspended by steel rods was a way of making them look as if they were spinning, referencing the movement of planets or the core of a futuristic reactor. The patterns on the sphere were based on water-worn rock patterns, but could be read as many other things.

Unfortunately the wood warped whilst charring/staining/varnishing, resulting in gaps in the box and it splitting in one corner. I should have done this after constructing it, but I was concerned that the metal piece might not fit inside once it was constructed which is why I chose to build it around this piece. This isn’t too noticeable in the final piece though.

The polished bronze sphere shines out of the dark box, a successful realisation of my vision for this sculpture.

‘Untitled’

This sculpture has a lot in common with the ‘Box’ sculpture above. It has distorted a bit in its construction, due to being made out of thin steel. I also managed to burn some holes in the base of the piece whilst trying to weld it together. Fortunately the rust finish hides this to some extent.

It would be improved by using thicker steel to avoid the problems detailed above, and a longer rusting time to give a lighter brown colour over the whole piece.

This piece could be read as a model of planets / orary. The contrasting colours of the metals give interest and intrigue to the sculpture. Overall, a fairly successful translation of the initial maquette form into a finished sculpture.

Comparison with other artists

David Smith used a combination of steel and bronze in many of his sculptures. This link hows this combination off to the best effect. Here he has painted the steel orange, but it gives a similar colour to the rusted steel surface I chose in my sculptures. Royal Incubator 1949 also shows off the combination well. Combining these two materials is also often the combining of different surfaces –  steel is usually used for flat angular forms, whilst bronze can be cast in more organic shapes. I think this field can be explored a lot more going forwards.

Whilst may artists use bronze or rusted steel, I can’t find many who use them in combination, in fact a Google search on “sculpture steel bronze rusted” brings up my sculptures from this project, so there can’t be many out there!

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