Web Design
by Hodephinitely


Thu, 4 October 2018 12:07:12

A Piece To Commemorate The Nurses Of WW1 In Flanders

I was asked by artist - curator Chantal Pollier to take part in an exhibition in Poperinge, Flanders about the nurses of WW1 as part of the WW1 centenary projects. The title of the exhibition was to be "Heelkracht" or, healing power and the setting a chapel in the town just behind the Western Front and the St Bertinus Kerk.

The town of Poperinge is still recognisable from how it was in 1918 and remnants of that history are everywhere. In a nearby country house that had been used as a hospital were some original beds from the war and these were loaned to me as part of an installation. The nurse had to be generated: I began her as a clay head around a pair of blue acrylic eyes I had been hoarding for a while.

The soldiers in the installation are only to be present in parts, based on some very tragic original photographs of how many of the soldiers were absorbed by the muddy ground of the Flanders fields. I set about making some body parts in wax from my volunteer models.

Usually I prefer modelling the body parts to casting them, but on this occasion I was after some realism.

I end up with quite a collection of body parts. You can see from this picture how it's the colour that brings them to life.

My nurse's face was modelled not cast and needed to be as convincing as the body cast parts, so I went at the colouring rather cautiously, completing a first layer before deciding she was still too pale. I added some hair roughly to give myself a general impression of where it was heading.

Don't ask me why I always end up painting these at dead of night. This is not recommended as the lighting is not ideal, striplights make you paint too yellow, spotlights not yellow enough. I do have a daylight bulb lamp in my own studio butI nearly always finish my pieces on location, in this case a friend's studio nearer the exhibition.

Mon, 30 May 2016 22:15:48

The Carving Of Guy Of Gaunt

I am currently undertaking a large scale woodcarving of a British cadaver tomb, as part of a major project by Dr Christina Welch at Winchester University. The genre is known as a Transi Tomb, and shows the deceased as a withered corpse ( or maybe still alive in Purgatory after its death) and, though from the 1420s - 1530s, shows remarkable anatomical knowledge. Here is a typical stone Transi figure, from Southwark Cathedral.

A large 6ft block of limewood was prepared at the Giesler-Moroder carving school in Elbigenalp, Austria, and delivered to my studio. Handling such a weight requires special equipment - here is the press which is used to laminate the block.

The block is prepared for delivery

Late at night and I'm narrowing the legs of the figure and digging out the drapery behind the shins...not an easy spot to reach.

The carving went on the road as a demo this weekend at Winchester Uni's Death and the Maiden conference. My laid out tools probably gave visitors a false sense of a methodical, tidy artist. Very false....this is the core kit, with homemade leather sharpening strops, straight and curved gouges, some hand sharpening stones which are slower than machines but give superb edges; measuring calipers, wax hand and foot prototypes sculpted in the dissecting room, oil can, and a magnifying glass for checking blade edges for imperfections. With this kit, I can carve away for ages.

A view of the carving demonstration setup in Winchester. It's not often I get to stand this far back from the side view of Guy as my own workshop is narrow ( and, yes, full of useful junk.)

The neck muscles stand out like cords on the neck of the severely emaciated, and it's the point where I start delineating these. Still some to come off the forehead and the eyes will need to recede into the sockets quite a way.

Thu, 24 September 2015 15:06:55

A Waxwork Of Virginia Woolf Sept - Oct 2015

I have been asked by the historian Dr Ruth Richardson and by King's College London to make a wax of the writer Virginia Woolf for the foyer of the Woolf building on Kingsway.

We plan to present her in "a room of her own" or rather, a wardrobe, to balance the Auto-Icon of Jeremy Bentham who had his real body preserved with wax head and kept in a cabinet for the instruction of his successors at University College London up the road.

She will be fashioned upon this elegant shop mannequin which is currently seated at my dining table.

I am dressing the waxwork after this 1923 photograph of Woolf with Lytton Strachey, taken by Lady Ottoline Morell. Whilst not costume expert myself, to me VW seems here to be wearing clothes that are slightly behind the style for the time, wrapped in seemingly Edwardian layers; far from a thoroughly modern Millie.

I chose these pictures because in them she seems more at ease than in the more posed phto shoots with Man Ray and Gisele Freund.

I imagine Tomlin had VW present to sit for this portrait bust.

Virginia Woolf Bust in Charleston studio

Stephen Tomlin's original plaster bust of Virginia Woolf made in 1931.© Charleston Trust Photograph by Axel Hesslenberg

Work begins fleshing out a skull of the requisite length and slenderness. I happened to have one of the right ball-park of proportions, and the eyes are from ebay on this occasion.

Roughly establishing the eyelids early on helps with recognition and likeness

Still some way to go - she looks older, more gaunt, the features too big for the surrounding head

More definition, beginning to flesh out the face; the expression quizzical and as yet too arch, needs correcting

Sometimes the effect is clearer in black and white. This is starting to resemble a well known picture of VW looking out of a window.

Once the face and head shape are there I take off the hair and eyebrows ready to cast her into a harder wax.

Indignities of the casting process

Several servings of Tiranti RTV20 silicone rubber later

A WW1 period dress is fitted to the body by Louise Patey,a tailor who specialises in period and theatrical costume. The dress was sourced from Kalamazoo Michigan from the Etsy shop of Vera Vague, one of many white tea dresses from this age they have collected, each of which would not look out of place in a painting by James McNeill Whistler.

The finished Virginia in a room of her own in the lobby of the VIrginia Woolf building at King's College in Kingsway.

Mon, 19 March 2012 21:50:26

Something About Nietzsche

Which began a while back with a block of limewood, some jaws and a hunch about how these might be unified.

A great deal of cutting profiles and scooping of eye sockets later....

Some more detail filled in, and on the carving clamp awaiting hair cutting and teeth carving. I didn"t mean this one to resemble Nietzsche in the beginning ; it just went that way, unstoppably. Nietzsche himself believed he was Dionysus in later years, so something of transformation was always on the cards here..... Photo by Roberta Ballestriero

The finished piece complete with deer jaws and a burial medallion from the 19th century : "Nietzchehirsch"

In the collection of A. McLachlan

Wed, 15 February 2012 20:05:09

Yearnings, Rescue, Homage, Angst, Abduction, Amor

A sculpture for the exhibition in Australia in various stages of development. The only restriction on its design was that it had to go by UPS couriers for under 4kg and pack into a 30cm cube box.

The head was built up hollow in hard wax. The atmosphere filtered in from a pair of Victorian opera gloves.

At some stage it starts to look like someone.....

It"s all about Max Klinger"s prints "Paradigm occasioned by the finding of a glove".

Its personality coalesces very late one night in the shed.

And it could exist just as a head, but not for this show

As it sits in the exhibition, channeling something from Miss Havisham and Brian Eno, as Paul Sutton kindly pointed out. Thanks to Steven Rendall for staging this one.

Wed, 15 February 2012 20:01:21

On The Bench Of Thoughts And Dares

Every new piece starts on this bench as a vague hunch, an ink splash or a bit of fiddling with something old.

Making some drawings about the wax reliquary busts I am sculpting: the head, reduced, compacted, hoarded.