online: 11 november 2004
modified: 2 december 2004

3 november 2004 realistic and abstract sculptures

18:44 after visiting a sculpture park

What I recall first are the 'realistic'* sculptures of recognisable people, lightly clothed, or unclothed, and particularly those in calm or normal postures, in which the sculptor has looked long and has, with care, selected certain small features (veins, muscles, seeming irregularities) - or those from which such features are omitted to leave a simplified form (as in Giocomo Manzu's Kardinal, in cope and mitre, long smooth garments from head to foot) ... It's these I remember, not the abstract distortions (eg Ossip Zadkine's Phoenix that is quite difficult to decipher visually).

*it is of course a learnt blindness to see an immobile metal or stone figure as realistic, when a person of flesh and hair and eyes and clothes etc is so different from it!

Then I recall the actual presence of such sculptures, next to us, the uncanny feeling that they are here with us, in the same space that we occupy.

I remember those with particular simplicity of form, not eccentric or styled, but reflecting life as a whole, or much of it...

Then I remember how, after looking at several such sculptures (those that enhance and extend life as it is), the surrounding trees seemed to become sculptures also... tree trunks, branches, leaves, and particularly the spaces enclosed inside and beneath each tree, all seemed more sculptural than any sculpture, more complex, more alive (but depending on sculptural perception to see them thus).

Why, I wondered, doesn't anyone sculpt a tree. I don't remember seeing a single one.

7 november. After a second visit, I came across 5 or 6 metallic shapes, geometric, vertical, in bright colours, about the height of people, titled 'trees' but lacking the slenderness, the flexibility, the strength, of trunks and branches, twigs or leaves, yet having some treelike qualities: uprightness, they look as if they grow out of the ground... The sculptor is Jorge Dubon.

Also resembling trees is a kinetic sculpture by Jesus Rafael Soto. It consists of hundreds of close-packed metal rods which vibrate visibly for minutes once set going. But I doubt if the resemblnce to a plantation of geometric trees is intentional.

No one, to my knowledge, has made a sculptures of trees in the way that a human figure is sculpted realistically, yet with character, meaning, or significance.

Wallace Stevens:

All our ideas come from the natural world: Trees = umbrellas.
Wallace Stevens, Collected Poetry and Prose, selection and notes by Frank Kermode and Joan Richardson, The Library of America, New York 1997, page 903... I don't believe this but I include it.

...after seeing many ... abstract sculptures (whose time seems over) I looked at standing figures by Auguste Rodin and Alberto Giacometti, a male body by George Minne, and one or two abstracts that are more restrained than the others, with subtly curved surfaces in place of cruder more consciously formed exaggerations of natural shape. These I liked.

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