The portrait kind

For want of some means to defer to my creativity I have turned my hand to sculpture.
While two sticks resting together can be certified as sculptural -- I, in contrast, yanker for the portrait kind.

I try to render human beings –or at least the top bits of ‘em– into three dimensional offerings isn’t, I have learnt, an easy task. As August Rodin pointed out, sculpting the human form is all about catching the multitudinous profiles that any one person may offer the world through every moment of their existence. Sculpture is all about catching as many edges you can and translating them, in my case, to padded and pinched clay.

If our noggins were simple squares or oblongs, sculpting would be straightforward. But edges on humans aren’t at angles. Instead we are profiling incessantly through subtle changes centimeter by centimeter of flesh. If it wasn’t for the boney bits below –maxillae, zygomatic, sphenoid. et al -- there’d be no method to the way we present to the society of others.

Fortunately before us great sculptors have created a legacy to enrich the path I now follow. Rodin’s Balzac (above) is an item in this legacy. Fortunately a mould of this statue is on permanent outdoor display at the National Gallery of Victoria. It is Rodin’s finest work I think. Certainly it was his greatest passion. The NGV also has a bust of Voltaire by Balzac which is worth hunting down among the collection.

While you are at it -- wondering through this or another gallery—be sure to check out any collection of pre-Colombian sculpture or seek out pictures of the portrait heads of Isamu Noguchi like the evocative Portrait of Uncle Takagi below:

I look at this stuff and I am simply in awe. So I get inspired to try my hand at what I could do if I tried really hard.

Being self taught like me maybe isn’t the recommended way to go about this – but the real pleasure lies in all the discoveries I make as I ponder one unrelenting problem (or profile) after another.

Then there are my hands…I can’t write or fold a newspaper with them. They’re stiff, arthritic and ungovernable and even my typing is prone to typos each paragraph. But put some flesh under them and I can make them work to rule. I had trained as a massage therapist and soon learnt that fingers and thumbs can make their own way over flesh to feel the goings-on below. Body sculpting like that –where you bring the flesh to heel – is very much like working with clay. It’s rubbing and pinching, bashing and slapping to bring some required form together. In both tasks you have an end shape in mind.

When I later started making masks I created moulds the same way I worked flesh. Then I made puppets…and now I’m portrait sculpting.

Am I any good? At least I try to be.