Thursday, 2 February 2012

Thoughts for leaving behind traces of a sculpture.

An excerpt of writing from October relating to some new work. (because I am too lazy to re-structure my thoughts into a coherent blog post)

Lorenzo Bartolini exhibition in Galleria Dell' Accademia – here there were examples of plaster models made from marble originals to replace final sculptures that were either currently elsewhere or in other collections. You can see the points where joins were made (like a plastic milk bottle) and where filed down pins were inserted for structural strengthening. There is a great deal more texture on these surfaces, where the process of casting has made unavoidable dents and marks- an enjoyable contrast to the immaculately observed detailing in the figures and busts themselves.
Also on display are early original models of pieces that had been sculpted from plaster or clay, later to be made into the finished marble sculpture. These had some of the same interesting qualities of the casts, but additionally had the sense of having been more roughly made with the process of 'sculpting' and manipulation of the material more obvious. A good insight into how these incredibly austere and polished marble pieces can only be realised from the flexibility of the humble qualities found in clay and plaster.

Obviously, my casts have little of the delicacy and observation of the latter. But I see similarities in the replicas. I feel like I've taken almost no artistic liberties with my casting of the wood and concrete rocks. However, for various reasons, the essence of the original is gone. Concrete and wood, so much directly taken from the scrub land of every day life, are defined by their function, their materiality and strength. In the Bartolini replicas (and in all cases where replicas of this kind are made), the quality of the casting (and the bare evidence of it) bring the mind back to material processes and surface quality, and remove them one step further from it's depiction of reality. I suppose these are 3 dimensional photocopies, with perhaps a few stray hairs and a bit of dust on the glass. In my mind, most of the original qualities and intentions of these sculptures, such as the intricate attention to the contours of a body, the forms of muscle, the pose of the figure, are no longer very relevant (or, arguably, that interesting) and actually give way to the minds new interpretation of what it's seeing – a copy, an object, a thing made of stuff (alright Karla?).

For two things that at first look so similar it seems funny to me that these copies have a completely different function in the material world. The similarities between the original and the copies are obvious but it's the points where one sees the joins, dents, cracks and mistakes that gives them their new material identity and reminds us that we are looking at something else entirely – something that relates to it's original but will always be an amalgamation of other factors, made for the most pragmatic of reasons. I see these attributes as making the replicas almost more fastidious at depicting life than the originals even though, ironically, this seems less their concern. This reminder of surface qualities gives the sense that one is looking at a real thing, made and cast and joined together, as opposed to some fanciful notion of a beautiful woman who looked a bit mournful a hundred years ago. I feel this brings us more into the here and now and causes us to reflect on what it is exactly that makes us feel like we understand the processes involved in every day life. Sometimes the smallest and most unintentional of details can help to give us this understanding.

Take away the original and maybe the copies are enough to be able take their place (as they did in the Bartolini exhibition). Surely they look more or less similar enough? But then I think about my casts and the idea of a concrete block being replaced by a plaster copy and how that seems bizarre and daft because of all the differences mentioned above. However, I suppose the marble statues aren't really the true originals in the way my concrete pieces are- theirs are real flesh and blood, long gone by now and only captured in stone. Which is why I like working with objects and materials- there's more of a sense the originals will always be here, somewhere, hiding in our cities, walls, gardens and rivers.

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