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WHAT IS SCULPTURE?

Form and Function
Sculpture is a three-dimensional art form that provides an important visual way of understanding form and space. What will always remain the concern of the sculptor is the manipulation of a solid, material body, whether stone, wood, clay or bronze. Whatever its form or shape, whether figurative or abstract, sculpture functions to make us aware of our environment, our space within it and our special connection and relationship within this shared space.

There are many types sculpture: portrait busts, allegorical and equestrian figures, funerary, garden sculpture, figurines. Public sculpture has traditionally been associated with commemorative monuments or architectural sculpture. Abstraction and assemblage are the dominant forms of modern sculpture. Yet it seems that the human form remains a consistent concern for the sculptor; a concern that re-emerges time and again and confirms man's innate need to fashion his or her own image.

Sculpture functions as an integral part of many ceremonies and events. Often unnoticed, it gives us a visual reference for our emotional experiences throughout the passages of life. Tombstones, for example, are a form of sculpture commemorating death, a universal event.

Materials
Sculpture can be made from many different types of materials. You may know many famous works in marble such as the Venus de Milo and Michelangelo's David. The voluminous carvings of the Haida or Northwest Coast Native totem poles and many interior church sculptures are sculpted from wood. Boccioni's Unique Forms in Space as well as Rodin's famous statue of The Thinker from the Gates of Hell are all cast in bronze, and were all first shaped in clay. Different sculptors prefer to use different materials. Some, like Elzéar Soucy and Sylvia Daoust, preferred to sculpt in wood. Others like William Oosterhoff and Frances Loring often carved stone. Still others enjoy using clay, plaster or even papier maché.

The types of materials often directly effect the composition. A hard and heavy material like stone can chip or break. Therefore a work in stone may be more compactly designed. Lighter, more malleable materials such as bronze allow for dynamism and permit the artist greater liberties with the composition of the work. Many other materials are integral to the casting process; clay, metal armature, plaster and wax, among others.

Bronze casting is very specialized. Because of logistical difficulties and expense, much early 20th century Canadian sculpture was cast in plaster and given a patina to emulate bronze.

Processes and Techniques
Processes in sculpting vary, and always depend on the materials used. There is cast sculpture, where a material, such as bronze, begins as a clay form that is cast in a mould to produce a given shape; there is also carved sculpture, such as wood or stone. Two distinct methods have emerged; an additive process, where material is added again and again to build up the form, for example with clay, and the subtractive process, where the artist removes or subtracts materials to create the form, as in marble or stone carving.

Sculpture may be free standing (sometimes referred to as sculpture in the round even if it is a square shape), often on a pedestal or base where you can walk around it, or relief, where raised forms project from a background or surface. There is low relief, where the figure emerges at a level closer to the surface; and high relief, where the figure may almost be completely detached from the surface or ground. Types of representation and composition in reliefs are defined by their need for the ground plane on which the forms are superimposed or from which they emerge. Relief can be carved in wood or stone; moulded in clay or wax; cast in metal, plaster or resin.

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