Monday, June 14, 2010

More on the Concrete Sculpture

I took some photographs of the recent concrete sculpture I have been working on. The structure (armature) is steel rebar with steel mesh wrapped around that. The sculpture is in two parts that will be resting on each other, separate but together, in the final piece.

My original idea was black and white stripes on the branch-like forms, but I toned down the really strong contrast. The first photo shows the thin black-pigmented cement after being applied. I used masking tape to keep the smooth mixture in the right places. When the cement had cured enough (about 24 hours) I peeled off the tape and wet sanded the piece. Then I scratched grooves in the surface with very coarse sandpaper (16 grit) and an old file, followed by an application of a thin layer of white Portland cement and metakaolin that covered everything. The next photo shows the application of that thin white layer.

You can see the scratches made in the black in the photo. The white smooth mix is rubbed into those grooves so that when most of the white is sanded off, the lines would show as white. After I did this I then did the revese colour process—scratching that surface again, but this time rubbing a thin black layer over everything. After this cures I will wet sand it off with something like a 320 grit paper to reveal (hopefully) a very complex and interesting surface.

In the meantime both pieces of the sculpture are wrapped in plastic to allow them to damp cure.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sketches for a Sculpture

I've been working on a concrete sculpture for a couple of weeks now. My ideas started with some very brief sketches with the idea of dependency and relationship. I like the idea of one object leaning on another one so that they are both in a sense holding each other up. I have also been thinking about the number of projects I had been working on all at the same time, and debating internally whether that was a bad thing ("to do anything well you have to do only one thing without distraction") or a good thing ("creativity comes out of chaos").

The first images in my sketchbook were simple line drawings, and then I tested some of those ideas by bending the forms in copper wire, to see how gravity and geometry would work with those ideas. Then I made two separate armatures out of steel rebar and expanded steel mesh (stucco lath), then made a mixture of cement, sand and polystyrene beads which I pushed into and through the lath. I used this lightweight mixture because the pieces are about six feet long, and I wanted to be able to lift them. Over a period of several days I applied thinner layers of white Portland cement mixed with white sand onto the surface of the growing shapes. That's about where I am now, applying thinner and smoother layers of alternating bands of white cement and black pigmented cement as final finishes.

This morning I found a scrap of paper on which I had written some notes and done a couple of little sketches. It was about half-way through the design process, so I thought I would scan it and share it. I also seem to have resolved the conflict about working on many things at once. I had written "creativity is something your brain does when you're working on something else", then edited it to "creativity is something your brain does when you're thinking of something else." This must have been influenced by the Zen directive in brush painting: "It is not I that am doing this." Under that I wrote: "That's my excuse for doing so many things at once."

I'll post some pictures soon of the sculpture as it develops. At the same time I am continuing to make and market jewellery, and I am also trying to tie up a project I started a few months ago which is neither concrete-related or jewellery-related.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Concrete Statue at Denver Airport

A seven ton 26 foot concrete statue of Anubis, Egyptian god of death and the afterlife, is being installed at Denver International Airport. The statue will be there for the duration of a King Tut show, June 9, 2010 to January 9, 2011. (The King Tut show closed at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto in May. The statue appears to be the same one used outside the AGO.) According to, the jackal-headed statue will weigh in at 9000 pounds, and is being assembled in sections.

The statue appears be controversial on a couple of levels. A statue of the god of death in an airport might make some superstitious passengers nervous,  and the American end-of-days movement is concerned about the growing number of "pagan statues" being erected.

I for one don't mind the idea of a god of death (pagan or otherwise) overlooking an airport. I confront my own mortality every time I fly, so why shouldn't everyone else be reminded of theirs? The end of days argument is that we are putting up idols against the wishes of a jealous god. "After all of God's warnings we just have got to tempt fate," they say. Surely we all recognize that this is a Egyptian god from a long-dead religion. Or do these people believe that art is even more powerful than I imagined.