“If a work of sculpture has its own life and form, it will be alive and expansive, seeming larger than the stone or wood from which it is carved. It should always give the impression, whether carved or modeled, of having grown organically, created by pressure from within”. – Henry Moore, 1958
This spring, we have been honoured by the wonderful exhibition of the “sculptural murals” by the local artiste extraordinaire Patricia Leigh Forst. Her unique, highly original and technically-challenging murals and free-standing sculptures glow with warmth, make time itself stand still and draw the viewer into a dimension where the seemingly-commonplace becomes charged with power.
Ms Forst sees as one of her primary goals to convey a great deal of information using the minimal possible amount of detail. Originally trained as a potter, she became inspired to parlay her talents into sculptural works whilst on a trip to England. A passionate and tireless traveller, who apart from the better known destinations such as Santorini or Egypt, has ranged to the less travelled locales such as Kyrgystan where she got to enjoy seeing some ancient murals.
Her artistic influences are many: those of tribal African art, ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations, but she is also (to some extent) following in the footsteps of Modernist giants such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Living in England in 1987, she was deeply impressed by the monumentality of Henry Moore’s work, the curves, the soft-flowing lines. (A little aside: I remember an exhibit of Henry Moore’s that took place in the eighties at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where his famous (or infamous) sheep drew a huge crowd of admirers some of whom had to be bodily restrained from caressing the sculptures.) Henry Moore does seem to have had his “feminine” side well developed, and the right-brained intuitive vision is certainly reflected in his work:
“Two-piece Reclining Figure #5″ by Henry Moore
Ms Forst visited the environs of his studio in the U.K. but did not actually enter. (I wonder why?)
Fascination with the “keyhole” pieces by Barbara Hepworth has also played a role in informing Pat’s own creative vision as you shall see:
The notion of “looking through keyholes” is also present in the many paintings of Georgia O’Keefe, of course. (Whether one uses two or three dimensions, stones, bones or alabaster, bronze or oils, no one can truly be said to work in a vacuum, we are all connected, and that is as it should be.)
Georgia O’Keefe “Pelvis”
The many travels to the American Southwest – Sante Fe and Sedona, in particular – have left their imprint as well. Ms Forst admires the work of the Native American artist Allan Houser:
While travelling in Africa and Greece – Santorini in particular – Pat Forst was impressed by many natural features of the land and those lines shapes, rounded shapes, negative spaces, weight, volcanic cones and craters, mesas and waterfalls, all speak to her on a deep level.. Every object she creates is “lightened from the back”. While the impression of weight is contrived, the pieces are not actually as heavy. Low-relief textures, rocks embedded in wood, by- products of both natural upheavals and human industry are reflected in the art and their composition leads to creative solutions of technical challenges. The study of ancient Greek art and ceramics, very “sculptural” vases, friezes was internalized and manifested in different ways later. She incorporates varying media into her pieces, including gold leaf. “Unless one looks closely and does a ‘double take’, one may not notice how manmade and natural objects are incorporated into one whole, how their aspects are reflected in each other” – she muses.
Ms Forst has this to say about her work: much of the preparation takes place “invisibly”. A lot of the process involves in finding “what makes you tick”. Artists are very playful people. One might plan but it is important to give oneself the time and the permission to play. Playing with various materials may results in utilising them in unexpected ways. Needless to say – but I’ll say it anyway all art is about play – on a very profound level. In this society, play is not encouraged, unfortunately, at least, where adults are concerned. But it is essential to our very existence, in order for our spirits to thrive and find expression in this world, we all need to give ourselves the permission to play and so avoid becoming rigid and static.
In his book “How To Be More Creative” – a silly title, I know, but this one actually has some merit, unlike most how-to books – David D. Edwards writes:
“Being creative means being willing and able to play: with ideas, materials, and reality. Creativity is a kind of mental play. To be more creative, relax your grown-up inhibitions and let your mind out to play more often.”
Thank heaven that we have artists in our midst to remind us of the above and to show us the way!
Any unusual forms and lines, whether seen in nature or manmade objects “tickle her fancy”. Pat Forst is forever experimenting with new techniques and ways of speaking through her media, such as Raku firing. She is inspired by the work of ceramics’ artist Peter Lane.
Everything is filled with beauty if one just takes the time to look. Snowbanks, trees, rocks, present themselves to the eye constantly. Voluptuous curves, soft wave-like patterns. There was once a time on this planet – and it may be coming once again – when every household object, anything one used in “mundane” existence was decorated and treasured and the originality and uniqueness of everything and everyone was appreciated. Every piece of clothing, every tool or stick of furniture was given respect and attention since all that comes into our awareness leaves an impact of some kind, no matter how briefly. This was not limited to the exalted levels of society but was very much part of even the humblest households. Whether it be woodcarving or needlepoint, pottery or leatherworking or smithing, art was not confined to “hanging on the walls of castles”, it was an essential part of life. Mass production and corporate “branding” deprive the world of originality, and indeed, of beauty. But there seems to be an awakening process at work as well, and people everywhere are starting to open their eyes once again.
Art may come from nature and by incorporating it into our environment, we reconnect with these eternal forces. Pat Forst speaks of the importance of doing just that.
Behold these sculptures inspired by magical beings among us”:
Patricia talks of the challenge and joy of representing the landscape in minimalist fashion. She is often amazed by how little one needs to get the massage across. Names are important but the image always comes first.
A little bit about the physical process:
Coils of clay arranged on a flat-backed form – as in wood planks – act as the “armature” and clay is built up over it in stages. The pieces are hollow, the back is lightened, to reduce weight. Another medium is Paper Clay: computer paper run through shredder, mixed with water. She overlays clay over paper, sprays the paint from “the dark side”.
Some of the freestanding works are sculpted” with a 2X4 as she likes to put it. Each piece presents itself to her as she works. While a plan or an idea may be there in the beginning, all and any of that may be subject to change as creates. It is not possible – or desirable – to predict what any particular piece will turn out to be.
This attitude extends even to finished and acquired pieces. Ms Forst encourages the buyers of her art to play with the objects, to rearrange them in pleasing patterns, often. (Our moods change constantly, as well as play of sunlight, the position of the stars and moon, all flows and changes and nothing in nature is static. (I love that the artist is so aware and so open to others’ own input!)
So, without further ado, please enjoy:
The Dancer (Clay and burnt umber stain, 18X18’’) Spinning planet dancing in the cosmos? (Made me think of both the “Swiftly tilting planet” by Madeleine L’Engle and “The System of the World” by Neal Stephenson. But this is much too literal an interpretation. Any thoughts on that?
Radiance (Clay and burnt umber stain, 35.5X12.5’’)
(Note: I have tried my best to use only illustrations that are in the public domain, or photos that I took myself. If any copyright infringement occurred, please let me know and I will take steps to rectify it. The Gibsons Public Art Gallery bears no responsibity, any error are strictly mine.) Please feel free to leave a comment, click on a link directly below this page. Thanks for reading!)
Post by Lydia Lemay