“Hard Man” – silicon bronze casting, lost wax method
September 26, 2015
Hard Man is an exploration of masculinity, in particular behaviours passed on from fathers to sons. Unlike Australian painter Ben Quilty’s focus on the vulnerability of young Australian males leading to risk-taking, I’m interested in male conditioning and parenting, ideals about masculinity passed from working class men to their sons over many generations, originating in the perception that males need to ‘harden’ in order to fight for survival and that a “soft man” rates not at all.
I began with working ‘Victory’ Brown, a microcrystalline wax, easily manipulated when heated, and experimented also with polymer clay. The wax quickly became more important since I wanted an expressionistic surface treatment rather than a smooth surface texture. I was interested in the ‘additive’ sculptural techniques of Giacometti, the combination of naturalism and abstraction evident in Henry Moore and the combination of the realistic and the mechanistic in the work of Ipousteguy. Less important to me were the smoother surfaces in the work of Matteo Pugliese. The head and torso forms were drawn from Nuragic sculpture from Ancient Sardinia, a close look at all the European Ancient sculpture traditions, as well as Japanese yoroi armour. The exhibition of work from the Benaki Museum in Athens on show at the Hellenic Museum in Melbourne was very useful, as were the Rayner Hoff reliefs at the Sydney ANZAC Memorial.
Scale is significant. I wanted the final product to be small, representing my individual, personal power over the ‘syndrome’ of male conditioning, thus limiting the size of the final work at around 100x100x50mm.
The following photos shows the sequence from wax and polymer clay studies to silicon bronze casting from wax, to patina through the application of base metal paint overlaid with a violet solvent mixed with beeswax.
Photo 1. Polymer clay, exploring smooth surface texture.
Photos 2 and 3. Wax studies. The issue of a plinth arose at this time. I was careful to create a hole potentially suitable for a rod for a standing position, echoing the work of Giacometti, but I was also happy with a lying-down position with no support or plinth, echoing the fallen warrior series of Henry Moore.
Photo 4. Untreated silicon bronze casting, in a matt ashen grey colour, fresh from the foundry, Shaw Process Casting (Mortdale, NSW, Australia). I was forewarned that I might lose the ‘tail’ at the bottom of the torso because the wax was too thin; one of the arms was also perilously loose. The resulting cast had two interesting features: a bend in the head and a very sharp bend in the ‘cod piece’. Serendipitously, the sculpture became self-supporting, resting on one hand, the codpiece and one of the arms, thus resolving issues about a plinth.
Photo 5. Bronze casting patina: two layers of Bronze B Metal Coating (Barnes, http://www.barnes.com.au), producing a bronze/copper look. Despite having an overall “painted” appearance, the layers didn’t obliterate my fingerprints in the wax original.
Photo 6. Bronze casting patina: Solvent Dye Color – Violet from SculptNouveau (www.SculptNouveau.com, distributed by Barnes Products, http://www.barnesproducts.com.au) mixed with liquid beeswax. I adopted a ‘warm’ colour for the patina, wanting to ‘domesticate’ the work rather than elevate it to the position of “High Art” with a traditional green or black patina.