“I CAN DO THAT”
Bronze and Stainless Steel - h: 207 cm, w: 114 cm, l:135 cm, 2004
My work connects to the historical interpretation of children's bodies as sites that carry western cultural allegories of time, life, hope and the future. It is interesting to note that my body - an older woman - does not culturally represent or carry the same meanings that can be captured artistically by the use of my young granddaughter's form. As an artist I have been inspired by my granddaughter's determination and spirited belief in her future as a gymnast. Whilst sculpting and creating this piece of work I reflected deeply on the different positions that we both have at this moment in our lives due to our age, as well as the places at which we connect. I took the same attitude to learning the skill of sculpture that my granddaughter takes to her sport: I can do that !!
The young gymnast takes the pose and is about to begin - to launch into a new moment. She faces the future with sense of confident purpose, a resolve and unintentional fortitude. She looks towards a goal, yet is completely immersed in the moment. From the perspective of a sculptor, I know that these qualities (particularly the fortitude needed to be an artist in Western consumer culture) need to be consciously nurtured over a lifetime. The young gymnast reminds us that life is not necessarily linear- that it takes many twists and turns that often bring us back to the positive aspects of child like attitudes, particularly crucial for creative endeavours.
I deliberately wanted to produce a work that pays as much acknowledgment to the history of the craft of sculpture, as to the concepts behind a given piece. I have chosen to sculpt in a form that links historically with other artists that I have been inspired by, in particular Marjorie Fletcher's Kathleen (1933). This piece encapsulates the dynamic physicality of a young girl. Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux's La Negress, Bertram Mackennal's Circe as well as Auguste Rodin's many works also inspire me. I have tried to achieve the same cool, smooth feel of these works in “I can do that” to embody the agility and grace of youth, echoing the historical, cultural and metaphorical meanings carried by this kind of body. My sweat and resolve to succeed at this task are embedded in the piece, linking the past, present and future of my grand child, myself and past artists.
The work has been modelled in clay, slightly over life size, cast in a multi piece mould and hollow wax casts were drawn from the moulds. The wax duplicates were chased, repaired and reworked with a variety of tools. Wax sprues were attached to critical points and gated to a central wax cup and invested. The investments were kiln heated to remove the wax (hence the name “lost wax”) and the investment left intact. These were again heated then placed in sand, to pour molten bronze into the investments. After cooling, the investment was removed and sprues cut off and bead blasted to reveal the “rough casting”.
Many hours were spent in the processes of chasing, blasting and welding the pieces together and more hours spent rewelding, grinding, chasing, sanding and polishing the bronze piece. The beam followed the same processes.
The figure and the beam were then ready for the colour to be applied, in the form of French Brown patina and hot waxed.
The stand supporting the work was designed and installed by an engineering firm.
- Judith Rolevink