CORVUS & WOLF
Sculpture in wire, rubber & wood.
This exhibition is sponsored by British Pacific Properties
Q: What is behind the title “Corvus & Wolf”?
I’ve always been very interested in corvids [note: Corvidae is a cosmopolitan family of oscine passerine birds that contains the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs, and nutcracker. In common English, they are known as the crow family, or, more technically, corvids. – Wikipedia]. I studied birds from the age of 12. My entry into art college at age 15 was with a drawing of an osprey; and in college, I studied fine arts, commercial graphics and graphic design. I became more interested in birds, particularly corvids, when I came to Canada and five years ago started to seriously incorporate them into my artwork.
Q: What is it about corvids that is so compelling for you?
I’m always very curious about how they connect with their own environment and each other. They have a certain type of intelligence which I think is separate from humans and I also like the fact that these birds give without expecting anything in return. Corvids don’t have a strong agenda, but they have a very strong collective energy.
Q: How many [sculptures of corvids] are we going to see in this exhibition?
Probably about fifteen sculptures in total – the gallery will be very full. I’m bringing in a couple of walls to hang the work on. The show was originally going to be all ravens but, now, it is ravens and friends. When we had the recent wolf cull (or kill) – as an artist you react to the events around you – I became very interested in that whole concept of kill conservation and the tragedy of killing wolves from helicopters with their family around them. How does the wolf family feel when one of them gets randomly shot from the air? As I was working on the raven sculptures, I realized that the raven and the wolf work very closely together. The ravens will often scout out food for the wolves and lead the wolves to the kill. Then the wolves will tear the animal apart for the ravens: they even share the food. That’s why the show is named Corvus and Wolf. The theme speaks to the wolf as passive and happy while playing with the raven. I put a lot of thought into this theme because the wolf is part of our mythos. It is the most mysticized and the most over-exaggerated in terms of its mentality and aggression. I was looking at the different parts of the wolf’s personality: its playfulness, joy, love and community. To reference the wolf is very challenging – too often we are fearful of the wolf and most references are based on our violent responses – so for the wire sculptures, I ended up mostly drawing from out of my head, helped with anatomical references from books. The whole idea of life-sized work is important to me because the wolf is a magnificent animal when you see it up close. I wanted the viewer to experience its majesty. Too often we experience these animals only from a distance or in a group.
Q: Are you working solely from photographs to create the sculptures?
I work from all mediums – photographs, drawings, skulls, birds in the wild, anything I can find online, and anatomical studies. Interestingly, I learn from studying the bones and have studied the bones of the raven for a long time. As a result I can draw the bird from any angle because I know its bone structure. I’ve also learned where all the feathers go and how many there are. Originally my sculptures were more interpretive, but they have become more anatomical as I have progressed. I even have a scientist at UBC who is giving me whole birds to work with.
Q: What materials are you using?
All the sculptures will be made from rubber, wire and wood. I’ve been exploring using rubber for the ravens. The rubber comes from conveyer belts – I spruce them up with some rubber cleaner, cut them into hundreds of strips and then build it up in layers. This exhibition will be the first time I’ve shown rubber sculptures and I’m really looking forward to feedback.
Q: How long does it take to create each piece?
This is a common question. The wire wolf sculpture, “Canus Lupus”, took over 100 hours. That’s just for the physical execution of the sculpture and doesn’t include all the preparatory drawings and studies. What I think makes people engage with the wire sculptures is that they look spontaneous, but in reality they are intangible, unwieldy, and awkward. Think of all the wire: you have to stretch it first before you even start, so this metal is actually working against itself despite its apparent randomness. What I’ve found is when I do a drawing initially to base the wires on, if I’m working with the wire and I try to make it too anatomically correct, I lose that spontaneity and my sculpture starts to look too manufactured. So the rawness of my work, combined with [the viewer’s common question of] “how long does that take?” makes the viewer really reflect on the piece, now a seemingly permanent, three dimensional line drawing.
Q: Are you incorporating any colour into the pieces?
The rubber is quite interesting to work with. After you clean recycled rubber and apply paint, the material appears metallic. Rubber also allows the the shape of a feather to form a natural fold. And so some of the wire sculptures have rubber painted with acrylic and the metallic paint subtly catches the light. Overall, I think my creations stick with people because these creatures seem to emerge from the wall. People are so used to a two dimensional world, and my sculptures are so accessible because you don’t have to physically walk around them.