Head of the Council
I recently sold one of my oldest sculptures. It has always been special to me and the act of polishing it for the new owner (who promises to let me visit and to loan it to me for shows – how could I ask for a better buyer?) has reminded me what I love about this piece.
The Arrival of Serendipity
It you are carving with coloured stone, then there is a danger that the grain and the colour will work against the aesthetic of the sculpture. If I knew exactly what I was going to carve when I started, then I wouldn’t be able to adapt to circumstance. It’s also true that sometimes serendipity simply works against you.
But since I work slowly, talking and communing with the stone from the first time I pick it up, then working with hand tools – I have time to look for what is already inside the stone and alter the shape to best release the energy and expression. While this was true even in my earliest work, it produced nice results when I sculpted “Head of the Council.”
The drape of the fabric, the shape of the figure and the wings were all determined by preexisting lines of colour – as though that piece of stone knew exactly what it wanted to be before I ever touched it with a chisel. I like to tell myself that I knew exactly what it already was.
That was the first time I have ever carved something from a block of stone with no suggestive shape or raw edges and I didn’t think I’d like it. But the way the stone had been cut, the colours were quite visible. So unlike carving limestone or plaster, the raw material did influence what I saw in it.
The yellow wonderstone is like flames, suspended in time: an upthrust of magma, still glowing from the heat of the earth. Near the base, dark streaks swirl up from a charcoal sub-structure giving rise to the ephemeral figure that resolves in the curl of the red flames forming the hood and great wings. Heat crackles all around it, red turning to orange and yellow fading to gold streaked with translucent smoke.
It was also the first time I worked with wonderstone – which provides disturbingly uneven results from piece to piece – but working on this stone was a dream – it broke exactly the way I wanted it to and cut cleanly with the chisel. Some of the texturing on the back of the wings was essentially created with deep scratches. That technique worked beautifully on this stone. And the scratches will still be crisp for decades if not centuries. I felt like I was creating an artifact – which may be the feeling I love most about sculpting – its like making art out of natural history itself. This is my favourite of my wonderstone pieces.