Materials and Meaning

The material an artist uses has a lasting effect on the art, from the moment of inspiration right through to the impact on the viewer.

What I find interesting is how the use of different materials affects, not only the construction, but also the development of a work of art.

The interpretation by the viewer is a personal matter, yet the material undeniably contributes to the meaning proposed by the artist.

My work includes materials that reflect our epoch and to this end, I am always seeking out new options.

While the painter may only choose from a limited group of materials; the classic noble oil paints or the newer technologically advanced acrylics; the sculptor has myriad of choices including almost anything that you can think of that exists in physical form.

In an article by Ann-Sophie Lehmann, she allows materials further consideration:

“Their physical properties afford the development of tools and technologies for and by artists who transform materials into depictions and representations. Their value make them political actors as they embody power and splendor, while a lack of value may turn them into symbols of sobriety in theological disputes.” [1]

The meaning of a material is admittedly difficult to determine as Ms Lehmann points out:

“On only a few occasions is the meaning of a material clearly defined, for instance when a sculpture is carved from a piece of wood that is held to have magic qualities or when the use of precious materials is reserved for a special person.” [2]

In my case, the sculptures were all created in wax as a part of the “lost wax casting” process, but it was in the way that the wax is handled that makes the difference.

The Spirit Collection is created using a freer methodology resulting in more abstraction than the figurative representational work of my early career, while still using the same material; wax. Although the material remains the same, the intent and the process have changed.

The latest development in the Spirit series is the application of 3D technology. Part of the sculpture is created on the computer, marrying the digital to the analogue world. The inner structure is designed digitally, while the partial figure is created in wax, by hand.

Again the wax will be handled differently during the process and the addition of the digital design will be paramount in changing the meaning of the work.

From the artist’s point of view Ms. Lehmann sums the situation up perfectly:

“Most of the time, material meaning is more diffuse and has to be inferred from the ways in which specific material properties inform artistic process…” [3]

Technology is our friend.

Embracing it with intent pushes open the gates to the future.

By Blake & Boky

  1. Ann-Sophie Lehmann, Meaning in Materials: Netherlandish Art, 1400-1800, Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art / Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH) as an International (INT1) Journal, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index (Thomson Reuters).                                                                                                                      
  1. Ibid. Raff 1994, 14–15 and ‘Material alsReliquie’, 67–72; Belozerskaya 2005, 56 ff.
  1. Ibid.
Unnamed Prophet No1: a contemporary sculpture representing a partial female figure in bronze with an exposed interior structure. Created by Blake Ward Blake Sculpture Materials and Meaning

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