What do you see when you look at someone?

Diving Man - work in progress

Diving Man – work in progress

The making of Diving Man. It’s been an interesting journey into the world of not knowing.

Until now I’ve been a maker of animals – animals being what I know. From past training and present necessity – when I look at an animal I see it as an anatomical beast – a series of shapes, organs and bones hidden beneath hide. There’s another layer to all of this which might be summed up as “The nature of the beast” it’s the demeanour, how the animal is reacting to its enviroment what it’s feeling, its purpose. This second aspect is important from a Vet’s point of view since it allows one to predict the creature’s likely behaviour – no small matter when it comes to dealing with a bull weighing in excess of a tonne and also vital when making a diagnosis – it’s the minute details that signal intent or mood – the slight droop of ears, the angle of a hoof or flare of a nostril.

Of course we all “see” people day in day out – so it should be a relatively simple process to reproduce the form but in fact it’s something I’ve found incredibly challenging. I think this may be because in our looking we see only what we imagine to be there – what our mind has constructed. On top of our idea of physical structure is superimposed another reality – our interpretation of character, of intent – mental impressions that very often bear no resemblance the what we actually see in front of us. In other words an attempt by us as makers to define the person as a coherent whole by using past experiences and impressions both real and imagined to form an “image”.

The problem with this is that when I visualise a person in this way – it  isn’t what’s actually there – it’s my subjective representation. When I’ve used this as a template for the construction of a sculpture it just doesn’t work. The result is a horrible mishmash.

So the making of Diving Man has been a challenge in forgetting everything I know about people and looking instead at a form – at movement and shapes. At some point I could feel that the sculpture began to make itself – this sounds a bit bonkers but it does happen with most of the pieces I’ve made – or at least the ones that have worked. The conscious mind switches off and something else takes over. That’s when the fun starts.


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