People tend to think of my work as “impressionistic” because of its finish, in which I wish to show the way in which the clay is worked, and also to leave its completion to the imagination of the spectator. Although I have undoubtedly been influenced by sculptors such as Rodin, Dalou, and more importantly, Daumier, the similarity is a chance one, and my greatest debt is to Michelangelo, who of course also influenced them. One of my most formative memories is standing in front of his sculpture of Evening in the Medici chapel, and wondering why it seemed to me to breathe. I concluded that it arose from two causes; the conscious creation of internal rhythms, and instability within an essentially static pose. One of the problems of modern figurative art has been the influence of photography, which by freezing the moment has taught us how movement takes place; but it has led to an art which can be lifeless. Where movement is everything; when the attempt is to depict it at its summit, the energy is already spent. The moment before energy is released is far more powerful, and it seems to me that Michelangelo’s work is full of life because he depicts potential rather than kinetic energy. Additionally, much modern art has been influenced by Primitivism, and much primitive art is static. In reacting against the classical tradition, the movement lost that sense of internal rhythm which was such an important discovery of the Renaissance.
Most of my
work is to commission, because I value the artist client
relationship. Over the past two hundred years, artistic
freedom and “self-expression” have dominated attitudes, and
artists have felt themselves to be more important than
employed craftsmen. But the value of self-expression can be
overestimated. As St. Chrysostom said, the human soul is
like a wood-shaving, coiled round its inner emptiness. Input
from others is imperative for thought to take place. Too
close a proximity to one’s own creation can easily prevent
one seeing the wood for the trees. Artists have always known
that they have to stand back from their work, and sometimes,
to get a fresh perspective, they will look at it in a
mirror. But there is no different perspective more revealing
than the perspective of someone else. Working with others
and being challenged by their ideas is a way of progressing
one’s own thoughts, and one which makes the relationship
between artist and client supremely valuable for the artist.
Were it not for that relationship, Michelangelo would not
have painted the Sistine ceiling. Personally, I would not
have considered undertaking many of the works which I have
produced. My first love is for the human form, but it would
have been a loss not to have experienced the pleasure of
being an animalier.
years, where I have had the good fortune to gain an
increasing number of public commissions, my respect for the
commissioning process has increased. I have had to relate to
and interact with not just individual but community
involvement, and I have become convinced that the most
valuable art is a joint creation of the artist and the
society in which and for which he works.
Copyright © 2014 by Rodney Munday