I originally created my artworks using the mediums of drawing, painting and clay. Each of these mediums gave me tools to express my ideas and my impressions of life, whether in an abstract sculpture or in a realistic painting, I would apply materials to a flat surface or construct and assemble parts to create an object with three dimensions. My work as an artisan has always been fascinating and magical, inspiring me with every new creation. When I started to combine my flat and my dimensional work, I became increasingly enchanted with the relief sculptures I was creating. With relief sculpture I now had to consider the unity of both two and three dimensions to create “tangible pictures”. I found that I could create artworks that engaged viewers on a multitude of levels. My scope of storytelling expanded, offering a rich expressive new experience where “dimensional scenes” came to life. Relief sculpture is an artistic tradition that artisans have been expressing themselves with for the last 20,000 years!
My sculptures have several different levels of “relief”, or “depth” to their sculptural surfaces. I have sculpted “bas” relief”; low relief for the “Water Bird” series….. Medium, or “medio” relief in the “Motion and Mobility” series, and high relief; for the “Reptiles and Amphibians”. One famous historic example of high relief can be seen at the Athenian Acropolis in Greece, in the sculptural frieze adorning the Parthenon. This artwork continues to be awe inspiring and provocative and several thousand years later it is still telling it’s stories and captivating audiences as well as inspiring scholarly research! In the 20th century, examples of “bas-relief” include sculptural facades created during the Art Deco period. These are some of our most treasured and inspiring architectural artworks adorning the urban landscape; timeless in design and beauty.
Well executed relief sculpture can evoke emotions, drama, beauty, and/or remembrance. Projecting and receding into space, the varied tactile qualities of the surfaces are modeled, textured, and sometimes painted or stained. Even broken or damaged relief sculptured artworks that reveal the ravages of time, still offer hints of stories they were sculpted to tell. Often in public spaces, the warmth and character of relief sculptures bring inspiration and richness to our lives as we go about our daily activities.
As a professional artist working in this ancient tradition of relief sculpture, I have a very personal approach to each new artwork. I embark apon a mystical journey that begins with an idea and then develops into a passion for the subject. I study my idea very carefully with great concentration and observation. This means that I strive to “see” the qualities of what I want to sculpt, its form, structure, attitude, character. I have now taken the first steps on my creative path. I decide what I wish to communicate and develop a story. I must make decisions about what is most important to share and what can be edited.
In order to be able to sculpt forms with accuracy and skill, I learn about my subject by making in-depth drawings and designs. Paper, pencil or paint help me to explore, stopping at points to articulate, modify and emphasize shapes. It is important for me to fully understand and learn about my subject so I can bring character and distinction to my work. I begin with a clay “sketch”, (a drawing made directly on the clay) that eventually will evolve into a fully sculpted artwork.These drawings sometimes disappear beneath the clay as I work. This is followed by a long period of sculpting. When my sculpture nears completion, and I have a sense of “knowing” that I have illustrated my original vision, my journey is complete. I can then release the sculpture into the world.
As a sculptor and a seasoned artisan, my livelihood involves the initiation and completion of authentic and meaningful artworks. The successful process of creation and the final artwork demands well-honed skills and focused energy as it has for artists of every century beginning with the first human beings. This creative process has enabled us to reach our goals and to honor our purpose and importance to society driven by the profound hope that our creations will continue to enrich, inspire and inform future generations.
Caroly Van Duyn