Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bronze Sculpture

Bronze Sculpture

For the month of October, 2008, the Back Room showcases the work of Hope sculptor Henry Weaver. A plaster Neptune, dolphins, and a brass Vladimir greet you. In the Back Room, of the variety of pieces in bronze and plaster, the horses with mounted riders (Britiannicus/King Arthur, Andalusian) seem to catch the viewer's attention first. Perhaps it is the animal forms, the draught-horse detail, or the audacity, the very idea of imagining the mythic Brit as a real man in the costume of a specific era. Two boxers eye each other in the pause before the punch. A Greek and Persian warrior tableau evokes recovered bronzes of lost civilizations, yet the story is right out of a Hollywood epic. There is a commemorative plaque, a balletic Victory, and finally, three interesting portrait heads which make you want to linger, to circle, to nod, to breathe, Yes! Beautiful.

The very presence of bronze statuary seems somewhat intimidating (before any reference to price). There is so much more to creating the art object beyond the concept, original sketches, revised drafts, and artist's completed 3D model in clay or plaster. A formal manufacturing process involves sending the work out to a foundry where, before or after, the sculpture is adjusted for scale and goes through several stages involving armatures, rubber molds, wax positives, lost wax, chasing, investing, pouring, devesting, welding, more chasing, patina. (See ) It is an alchemy thousands of years old. This fact too inspires awe--here in a small town in British Columbia in the twenty-first century artists are making objects in the same way artists have from the bronze age forward. This is a continuity which says something about both art and the human condition.

Henry Weaver spoke last month at the Philosopher's Cafe. His definitions of art and of the difference between fine art and commercial art help elucidate his Back Room show. Fine art, he said, is a pleasing object created for itself. Commercial art is art created to sell something else. We stopped there (before getting into "graphic", "design", or "craft", an object created for a specific function.) Henry pointed out that what the artist chooses to focus upon communicates what the artist values. Thus, the show in the Back Room suggests to this viewer an interest in history, mythology, heroes and concepts of heroism, leadership, nobility, physical activity, strength, competition, grace, humanity, and human diversity. The objects further evoke feelings in this viewer of Independence and Celebration and arouse questions about What is Beauty? and Why are History and Art Important? For if the work shows what the artist values, does not the artist show us what we and what our culture should value, ideals to which we aspire? Without ever telling anyone what to think or do, without ever using the word "should", art can highlight our best attributes and achievements, as individuals, as nations, as the human race. When it works, when it connects with the viewer, fine art creates a feeling of "identification" between object and viewer, identification in the sense of recognizing in the object or the other something within or desired within yourself. Henry refers to this as "the connection" and suggests that bronze invites viewers to touch, indeed permits touch as a physical response to that psychological connection. Perhaps this idea of identification explains why, for this viewer, the four female figures, Victory and the three heads, are most appealing, because art at the viewer's level is very personal, and gender is part of our personal experience of the world.

This is Henry Weaver's first solo show. Images of some of his sculpture on display in the Back Room can be viewed on the family website:

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