The recently completed ‘Chalice’ sculpture is my second carved from Pyrophylite.
It came as something of a surprise, after the consistent colour and dense texture of ‘Archetype’, that this stone has two distinct colour volumes, with a much looser internal texture or ‘figuring’. The pale green volumes are noticeably translucent - similar to the earlier sculpture ‘Ascent’ which was carved from comparatively ‘powdery’ soapstone.
In terms of form, due to the cavities within it, it has a lot of interesting juxtapositions of edges and angles. Its look changes dramatically from different viewpoints, especially in close up angles. This is part of a conscious decision to make the surfaces more complex and ‘featured’, after the series of comparatively simple ‘obelisk-like’ forms.
This is the second sculpture in which I’ve used paint to enhance the textural changes in the surface. As I noted in the blog about ‘Archetype’; creating a different texture, without excessively tearing up the surface (as in the early sculpture ‘Claw’), tends towards a dull grey colour. While it was a clear decision to do this with ‘Archetype’, with ‘Chalice’ I had cause to pause, as the opacity of the paint tends to negate the translucent effects of the stone. This bought to mind a quote from Henry Moore (I think), when he said that he didn’t use strongly coloured / figured stone, as ‘the beauty of the stone distracted from the form of the sculpture’. As the translucency was an unexpected feature that emerged in the later stages of work, I decided to proceed with the painting.
A second conundrum was where to stop painting? I was clear that the surface created by the main negative space within the sculpture should be painted, but this surface flowed through the other holes created in the sculpture into the channels on the outer surface, without a natural break. So I decided that the outer channels should all have a consistent look, and painted them too.
This is the first sculpture I’ve done in which the holes piercing the volume intersect, which allows light to project into the internal cavities, reflecting brightly off the white paint. I’m very pleased with this effect (see previous blog entry on ‘Chalice’), and I’m sure that I’ll be incorporating it in future sculptures.
In mounting, for the first time I used aluminium alloy rod, rather than stainless steel. Visually, as I go for a ‘brushed’ rather than polished look, the two are very similar, but the working properties of the aluminium are better for hand tools. With all the ‘suspended’ sculptures, I hand cut threads onto each end of the rod, to help the epoxy to firmly bond to the stone and the wood. With the thinner gauges of stainless steel this is fine, but for the heavier gauges (see AdAstra) it’s very tough going, and really needs a thread cutting lathe. Hence the swap to aluminium.