Smooth, yet not complete

One perennial issue with clay sculpture seems to be the pre-occupation with the smooth – perhaps aimed at some form of ‘finish’ – with less attention to the completeness of the sculptural form or plane, by which I mean where the surface should attempt to be visually consistent – read as one – in whatever texture or idiom is used. A shiny rubber ball is a smooth, complete sphere. A single  compound curved plane exists – a simple and yet complex sculpture. An orange’s form is relatively complete whilst not being overly smooth. Its surface has a regularity in its irregularities that lends it visual strength; the surface asymmetries are consistent and cancel themselves out. Imagine a clay lump rolled in the hands and padded with the fingertips to force it towards the spherical. Our fingers are naturally bad sculptural tools for this exercise as they deform with an indent, whereas a flat-edged boxwood tool used with rigour can at least attempt to flat the surface. If there is absolute regularity in the fingered facets over the entire surface, the clay exercise can read well (in much the same way as a golf ball or a Peter Randall-Page sculpture) but most often, unconscious incompetence will give rise to a visually weak single sculptural form, broken into many small diverse planes and with varied surface ‘colour’. You can observe such deficiencies through scrutinising your created forms at eye level, in the round, in the  point source of candlelight – like Rodin did. If you would like to try the practical exercise linking to smoothness and completeness – introduced to me at the Frink School of Sculpture by Ken Ford (who was taught by Frank Dobson at the Royal College of Art) please subscribe (by adding your email after pressing the ‘+’ logo at the bottom of the page) and then use the contact form to request the password which will allow you to access all future exercises posted on this site.

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