The human form is one of the most enduring themes in art. For millennia, masters in all disciplines of art have been trying to replicate the complex intricacies of the human body. The emotive capacity of a person who is able to think, feel and breathe is almost limitless and this can no doubt be frustrating for a sculptor to duplicate into bronze.
Vincent Vergone is a Parisian sculptor and animator, who knows this problem too well. He’s spent innumerable time studying his craft, under a mentor and on through his own experimentation. Vincent’s reason for his precision is simple: he believes that the face is the mirror of the soul, and that a sculpture must be able to portray these ethereal emotions as well as a human face can. This kind of dedication is what once led him to work for six months on crafting just the face of one of his sculptures.
Vincent’s commitment to his craft is seen immediately in his work. His sculptures carry a signature look – long, sweeping, elongated arms and legs, limbs climbing skyward, meeting at the face which has all of its lines and curves etched perfectly, capturing the emotions of a mother with her children, or a couple.
The way he finishes the pieces give them even more life. His bronzing can look brittle, and very earthy, brilliantly capturing the aging in some of his subjects.
We visited Vincent’s studio in Paris, and he was a gracious host as we perused his collection of unfinished pieces and previewed his foray into stop motion animated films. We asked him about his failed beginnings as a painter, how he discovered his passion for sculpture, and the first piece he ever sold.
In 2002, Claire Morgan constructed Untitled an installation in which 2000 fresh strawberries were threaded with nylon and hung from the ceiling in a complex, concave shape. The piece was no doubt a laborious effort; the months of detailed planning, sourcing and implementation were all apparent in the final product – a sculpture that decayed within 10 days.
Most of Claire’s work is temporary. She uses organic materials, bringing together flowers, animals, insects and other matter and melding them into three dimensional shapes. Her works are commentaries on the relationship we nurture with nature, and some of her pieces hold themes of contained chaos. It can be jarring when you first realize Making A Killing is adorned with real butterflies but Claire’s use of taxidermy is the perfect introduction for us, who hadn’t previously thought it as art. She gives a new life to these animals as they’re reframed into shapes which seem to fluidly bend as you move around the piece.
The interim nature of installation work breeds a unique type of artist. It’s always interesting to learn how an installation artist accepts that their piece, which required such physical and mental effort will eventually cease to exist. For Claire, the fragility of her pieces is worth the price of seeing her ideas executed. She isn’t troubled with the notion of her legacy, instead she concerns herself with the implementation of her ideas. We still had so many questions about how she detached from her pieces but almost forgot to ask, as we spent the next few hours engrossed, prying through her buckets of bee’s and various stuffed animals (and her very alive cat). We did manage to ask Claire about how she’s adapted to letting go of her pieces, where she sources her animals and which animal is her favorite to work with.
Figurative sculpture is one of the purest forms of art. Through bronze casted profiles, viewers glean so much about the human form. Each curve, line and expression is meticulously laboured over by sculptors. It’s indeed a laborious process, a physical release for the artist, as much as an emotional one. Sculpture is very closely associated with the public notion of art as it’s a form that has been around since the beginning of human enlightenment. Art is ever-evolving and sculpture has respectfully transcended the foundations built by Michelangelo and Rodin.
Contemporary sculpture is fluid; it’s expressive, acknowledging and embracing imperfection. One of the most well recognized contemporary sculptures of our time is Expansion by California born, London based artist Paige Bradley.
This image has resonated with many people as a symbol of feminine strength. Juxtaposed against the faint outline of the Brooklyn Bridge, it serves as a bit of peace, inside the concrete jungle.
Paige is a well rounded artist – she is a sculptor, illustrator and writer. She has given life to a number of striking pieces; her bronze Surrender Containment was recently auctioned at Christies for over estimate. Each buyer leaves with a piece of Paige, as her spirit is so intertwined in her work.
For Paige, these sculptures are a loose figment of her current reality. She creates only from what she knows.
We visited Paige in her East London studio, and she shared with us her thoughts on making it as an artist, her piece Vertigo and the themes of mortality in her work.
“If I plan to fall back then I’m going to fall back, if I don’t plan to fall back and it’s not an option then I don’t need a fall back plan.”
– Paige Bradley