Have any of you ever encountered Constantin Brâncuşi’s Romanian pieces of modern art? Two days ago while going about my daily rounds about the worldwide artweb, I saw this picture of a remarkably stunning minimalistic sculpture. Clad in a golden hue and oriented like a vertical spire, it was an attention-grabbing artwork I just had to blog about. In the early 1920’s, I believe the original first work, “Pasărea în văzduh” was created. That very same sculpture came up at auction last 2005 and demanded the high selling price of over twenty million dollars. Today his series of sculptures under the known name “Bird in Space” is well spread out across the globe. Australia’s National Gallery, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Italy) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are just some of the places that house his works of bronze and marble.
What’s amazing about this series of works is how movement is visually captured in a static field of presence. Brâncuşi ‘s unique depiction of his subjects allowed for their artistic beauty to be derived from an alternate source rather than mere physical beauty or symmetry. He posed the notion of dynamic life in his body of works. To showcase this, he made people see a different side of the subjects, encompassing their existence as a visual purpose. Flight, movement, speed and distance can all be felt from one look at his majestic creations. Aside from being a colleague of the famous Marcel Duchamp (The Fountain), Brâncuşi was able to even change the outlook on fine art in the United states customs department when an late 1920’s issue regarding customs inhibited the dignity of his art pieces momentarily. A lot of people supported Brâncuşi and he eventually won out the favor of society after an appeal. This was the very first non-representational abstract sculpture to be considered as a type of art by the government bodies involved.
Photography credited to Dennis Irrgang
Sculpture by Constantin Brâncuşi
Dutch artist Woody van Amen studied at the Rotterdam Academy and taught there from 1970 onwards. He was a pioneer of abstract assemblage sculpture and pop art in its materialized concrete form. In 1961, he spent the entire year and the following year residing in America. Van Amen was able to draw inspiration from the legendary pop artist Andy Warhol during his stay in the United States. This gave him the thrust he needed to manifest his pursuit for pop art in sculpture. He came to the Netherlands after this trip and began working on his own style of assemblage sculpture. Despite his current popularity, he started out as humble as artists go by. One of his first works; Electric Chair (1964) wasn’t considered as art by the public and instead was seen as a medium whose intention was merely to mock.
In the 1970’s he traveled to both Southeast Asia and Switzerland to gain an oriental pull of influence for his sculptures. In 1993, he received the Chabot Prize from the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds or Prince Bernhard Culture Fund). In 2003, he also visited Singapore after recovering from a grave illness. It was there where he came across some Chinese flashcards signifying specific characters like Shuangxi or “doube happiness”. This observance directly influenced his style as well and played an important role in his development as an abstract artist.
Singapore’s recent fame with the art world isn’t just because of its status as a prestigious place to attend art auctions. The country’s own sculptors have a big impact on the global community as well. Now, let’s delve into the artistic life of Singapore’s Han Sai Por.
Han Sai Por is one of Singapore’ treasured artists. She studied at several notable art schools such as the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, East Ham College of Art, the Wolverhampton College of Art and the Lincoln University in New Zealand. Her sculptures reflect upon the eyes as very organic and natural in shape. She plays with the theme of life and the role that natural design plays in our world. Han’s very first exhibition; Four Dimensions was held at the National Museum Gallery in the early 1990’s.
Sculpture by Han Sai Por – Photography by Stefano Sartor
Han founded the Sculpture Society of Singapore at the turn of the millennium, and was the very first resident sculptor of the organization’s sculpture Pavillion at Fort Canning Park. It was there that she leaned on her taste for organic sculpture even more and created masterpieces from the trunks of Tembusu trees. Despite this, she is known much more for the stone sculptures that she creates to portray natural wonders like the birth of seeds and the spirit of nature. Han is a sculptor who has achieved more in her lifetime than most artists could ever dream of. She was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Art in 1995 among several other recognitions that were given to her during the course of her career.
Wercollier was an artist who was famous for defying the Nazi Occupation. He was born sometime in the early 1900’s at Luxembourg. As an artist, he worked mostly with bronze and marble, but also explored the sculptural properties of wood, alabaster and onyx. Today, many of his art pieces can be found internationally.
When Luxembourg was occupied by the Germans in World War II, Wercollier had a choice to make. There was an organization called the Reichskulturkammer that had been tasked to ensure that all artworks made by anyone had to be at an agreement with the “Aryan” spirit. Wercollier decided not to follow this organization and instead participated in strikes during the 1940’s. He was eventually arrested and imprisoned at the Neumünster Abbey in Luxembourg. Wercollier’s history at the abbey has not been forgotten to this very day. The location now houses many of his sculptures in a permanent collection.
Sculpture by Lucien Wercollier – Photography by Claude Meisch
Later on, Wercollier was transferred to the Hinzert concentration camp in Germany. Wercollier sympathized with the victims of the Nazi oppression that were sent there and this experience led him to create many of his future works. After being rellocated to Lublin for a while, he was later freed at the turn of the war. As a free man, Wercollier was able to pursue his artistic career yet again with more vigilance and passion. He founded the Iconomaques, along with some friends. It was a group of Luxembourg artists who had been spreading the movement of abstract art all across the nation.
Today, Wercollier’s works can be read about in the history of the city and in many international news articles as well. The government of Luxembourg gave one of his sculptors to the Kennedy Center in Washington to honor John F. Kennedy. Another of his sculptures was also sent to the Olympic Sculpture Garden in Lausanne Switzerland. Wercollier’s history as a sculptor was defined by his story and because of his unique experiences, his art was able to move thousands all across the globe. It only shows that art can be a force for change an a pioneer for good in our modern world.
Olivier Strebelle’s large and monumentally scaled sculptures have been a frequent sight for almost 60 years. His style has evolved from a previous set of organic and abstract forms to a more linear and slender type of modernism that plays with the movement of the eyes as they observe his work. Strebelle’s bronze artworks has made their way into countries like Germany, Israel, Italy, Singapore and America.
Olivier Strebelle in his Sculpture Studio – Photography by Mark Moran
His more recent sculpture “Athletes’ Alley” has been placed on the area where the 2008 Beijing Olympics was held a few years back. This renown sculpture rose up to over sixty feet high and three hundred forty feet across. The artist made use of steel tubing and bended them into a continuous flow of contemporary shapes. From angled views, the shapes come together very nicely in an elegant assembly of sorts, but the real purpose can be seen when the piece is viewed from a specific place. It is then, that the viewer will be able to see five figures carrying the Olympic rings. The sculpture did not make it in time for the Olympic date exactly, but was a good gestural gift from Belgium to the city of Beijing. It cost about 5 million euros to create. To produce such a grand and monumental structure, a cooperative project had to be established between The Image Laboratory of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium and the Tsinghua University in China. These two universities also had to seek the expertise of C&E Ingénierie; an engineer’s consultancy specializing in metal framework, and Sofistik; a German software company.
Recently there have been a number of Chinese sculptors that have made impact on the global art community. Here, we are going to talk about one of them. His name is Zhan Wang and he is an abstract sculptor who works with the boldness of the media and likes to transform it in ways that no one has ever seen before. Some people say that Zhan takes his inspiration from the many wild experiences he has had over the years. In 2004 for example, Zhan climbed the tallest mountain in the world; Everest, and put one of his sculptures at the very top of the peak.
Sculpture Rock Number 59 by Zhan Wang – Photography by Reguiieee
Zhan’s sculptures were often considered a novelty not because of their form, shape or subject, but because of the new manner that he presented these already-existing objects. He would play with positions, balance, and color to make each piece seem like it has been reinvented for the purpose of a new art experience. He calls his recent style “Floating Stones” and they can be classified as sculptures that are largely textured and rock-like in nature. The difference is, these large masses of nature are coated in chrome metals by Zhan himself. They are also known as scholar’s rocks according to the artist. He also refer to this particular set of works he started in 1995 as Artificial Jiashanshi. The mirror-like feel of his sculptures give surrealists a feel of an indeterminate form and existence. The liquid-like chrome blends with the cascades of light and reflects some of it back at the human eye to showcase the brilliance of Zhan’s master craftsmanship.
Many people say that the art of each person is completely unique, this is because what defines an individual person’s art is also what defines that individual. Upbringing, history, locations and surroundings all affect the artist in a manner that shapes his art as well as his ability to conceive ideas.
Today let’s take a look at Brazilian sculpture and where the modern era of art is taking them. Sculptors in Brazil have currently evolved beyond the Neogothic, Deco and Art Nouveau movements already and are in fine tuning with contemporary themes such as minimalism and surrealism. In 1951, the São Paulo Art Biennial was one of the ground breaking events that gave abstract sculpture the push it needed in the Brazilian community. Max Bill, a Swiss sculptor was the gold winner for the competition during that year.
Sculptures by Franz Krajcberg – Photography by Sam Emerick
Since then, abstract sculpture has grown into more modern themes in Brazil, however the people’s preference fro figurative resemblances did not vanish along with the trends of the past. They incorporated this into many of their contemporary works, even with subtle hints or meaningful symbolism plays. Pop art and Neoexpressionism were among some of the artistic movements that gave abstract sculpture its diversity in the country in 1960. These days, several Brazilian sculptors have made their way into the international art scene. Some of the popular artists include Francisco Brennarnd, Sergio de Camargo and Willys de Castro. Brazilian sculpture continues its journey to transform the local art community into an assemblage of noteworthy personalities that can teach younger generations their wide appreciation of art and design.
Abstract is a word means something that exists only in thought or idea but does not maintain a physical, concrete existence. As a verb, it means to withdraw or take outside of something given.
It’s a common word in art, but whether it be sculpture, painting, mixed media or photography- abstraction is a beauty to the sense. Why? Because we seldom understand it.
The human being yearns to learn and discover new things. It is our unquenchable thirst to know more about the world- so what happens when we present ourselves with something that cannot be governed by fact or formula? We find it absurd! We find it mind-boggling! and after all of that, we seek to understand it beyond anything else!
What caused the human being to create abstract art was indeed an abstract idea in itself. It was the idea that not everything had to be set in stone with regards to the art world. Not every little bit of detail and proportion had to match reality to be perfect. Abstract art is a rebellion of the mind. It was created by a stroke of wonder at what could be beyond human intellect.
Today, abstract artists all over the world converge to marvel at each others works, and more importantly at each other’s stories. We derive our art from our memory and experience, not necessarily from tangible surroundings.
Abstract Sculpture is a sensual expression of the mind to the heart. It does not promote a full accuracy of the real world, but does so intentionally so that its elements can penetrate the cognitive thinking of an audience. There are two types of abstract sculpture, just like there are in painting. These are Representational Abstract and Non-Representational Abstract. The first pertains to a sculpture that was partially or completely derived from a source in reality, such as the subject of a human body. The latter pertains to a sculpture that is purely imagined out of reality (like a Jackson Pollock in painting).
Sculptors in the modern sense, create works that range from simple pinwheel sized moving sculptures, to large monument-scaled shapes contoured to the environment. Despite the common measuring element of size, sculptures can gain deviance and popularity manipulating other elements as well. Texture, weight, balance and color can all play a distinct role in transforming a novelty idea into a concrete work of art.
There will be many more articles and stories to come that will intrigue and poke at your definition of what abstract sculpture really is, but for now let us just leave it at this:
Abstract sculpture is made by people who do not think or walk like we do. It is an art that was born out of human error, and yet judged by human creativity. It chooses imagination over knowledge (following Eintein’s famous quote) and speaks a meaning that can be heard differently depending on the ear that hears it. We may simply see the beauty in its sublime randomness and modern existence, but to truly understand its power, we must first shrink ourselves to be more humble than intellectuals, but far greater than logic.