The sculptor speaks
(Page 2 of 2)
When first working direct in a hard and brittle material like stone, the lack of experience and great respect for the material, the fear of ill-treating it, too often result in relief surface carving, with no sculptural power.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But with more experience the completed work in stone can be kept within the limitations of its material, that is, not be weakened beyond its natural constructive build, and yet be turned from an inert mass into a composition which has a form existence, with masses of varied sizes and sections working together in spatial relationship.
A piece of stone can have a hole through it and not be weakened -- if the hole is of studied size, shape, and direction. On the principle of the arch, it can remain just as strong.
The first hole made through a piece of stone is a revelation. the hole connects one side with the other, making it immediately more three-dimensional.
A hole can itself have as much shape- meaning as a solid mass.
Sculpture in air is possible, where the stone contains only the hole, which is the intended and considered form.
The mystery of the hole -- the mysterious fascination of caves in hillsides, and cliffs.
There is a right physical size for every idea.
Pieces of good stone have stood about my studio for long periods, because though I've had ideas which would fit their proportions and materials perfectly, their size was wrong.
There is a size to scale -- not to do with its actual physical size, its measurement in feet and inches -- but connected with vision.
A carving might be several times over life size and yet be petty and small in feeling -- and a small carving only a few inches in height can give the feeling of huge size and monumental grandeur, because the vision behind it is big.
Yet actual physical size has an emotional meaning. We relate everything to our own size, and our emotional response to size is controlled by the fact that men on the average are between five and six feet high.
Sculpture is more affected by actual size considerations than painting. A painting is isolated by a frame from its surroundings (unless it serves just a decoratice purpose) and so retains more easily its own imaginary scale.
If practical considerations allowed me, cost of material, transport, etc., I should like to work on large carvings more often than I do. The average in-between size does not disconnect an idea enough from prosaic everyday life. The very small or the very big takes on added size emotion.
Recently I have been working in the country, where, carving in the open air, i find sculpture more natural than in a London studio, but it needs bigger dimensions. A large piece of stone or wood placed almost anywhere at random in a field, orchard, or garden immediately looks right and inspiring.
My drawings are done mainly as a help towards making sculpture -- as a means of generating ideas for sculpture, tapping oneself for the initial idea; and as a way of sorting out ideas and developing them.
Also, sculpture, compared to drawing, is a slow means of expression and I find drawing a useful outlet for ideas which there is not time enough to realize as sculpture. And I use drawings as a method of study and observation of natural forms (drawings from life, drawings of bones, shells, etc.).
And I sometimes draw just for its own enjoyment.
Experience, though, has taught me that the difference between drawing and sculpture should not be forgotten. A sculptural idea which may be satisfactory as a drawing always needs some alteration when translated into sculpture. . . .
Sometimes I start with a set subject; or to solve, in a block of stone of known dimensions, a sculptural problem I've given myself by attempting to build an ordered relationship of forms, which shall express my idea. But if the work is to be more than just a sculptural exercise, unexplainable jumps in the process of thought occur; and the imagination plays its part.
It might seem from what I have said of shape and form that I regard them as ends in themselves. Far from it. I am very much aware that associational, psychological factors play a large part in sculpture. The meaning and significance of form itself probably depends on the countless associations of man's history. . . . I think the humanist, organic element will always be for me of fundamental importance in sculpture, giving sculpture its vitality. Each particular carving I make takes on in my mind a human or, occasionally, animal character and personality, and this personality controls its design and formal qualities, and makes me satisfied or dissatisfied with the work as it develops.
My own aim and direction seems to be consistent with these beliefs, though it does not depend upon them. My sculpture is becoming less representational, less an outward visual copy, and so what some people would call more abstract; but only because I believe that in this way I can present the human content of my work with the greatest directness and intensity.