Sculpture is a three-dimensional reproduction of a figurative or abstract image. To create modern sculpture the materials used, both solid and plastic – clay, glass, wax, stone, metal, wood, plaster, resin, fiberglass, etc., can be sculpted, modeled, cast, forged, mixed and combined to give the image a certain form/small architectural form – bas-relief, freestanding object or element of a natural landscape.
Development of contemporary sculpture
In the 20th century the modern sculpture that had been perceived only as the most ancient kind of art, often serving as a supplement to another art – architecture – has experienced a real revolution and has acquired a new, non-pictorial and non-functional meaning.
The original accelerated development of sculpture was given by the same modern architecture, the principles of which were the management of free space and light by means of the latest technical means and materials. Spatial sculpture is currently the most dynamically developing art form.
Also, modern sculpture gradually acquired a new feature – dynamism (kinetic sculpture), and with the arrival of modern technology and new materials, it is no longer associated with any special technical skills of the sculptor.
Historically, any sculpture was defined by its two main elements – mass and space. In modern style sculpture, these elements lose their former importance. Monolithic forms give way to light and transparent constructions of all kinds of materials, which allow the sculptor to capture the effect of movement in space.
Such elements as volume (including negative), surface texture, play of light and color become the key elements in the visual palette of the modern sculptor.
The structure and expressiveness of the surface of modern sculpture is especially important, as it gives an idea of the internal structure of the sculpture itself, as well as determines its interaction with the surrounding space, thus acquiring a metaphysical meaning. The curved convex surface demonstrates integrity, completeness and the presence of inner power.
The concave surface, on the contrary, shows the invasion of space into the sculptural mass, its disintegration and destruction. Flat surfaces give an idea of the stiffness of the material, its immunity to pressure from inside and outside.
The sculptor can also use several types of surfaces in the same object to demonstrate the instability and struggle of internal and external forces that often accompany processes of growth, expansion in space.
Unlike a painter who creates light effects with the colors of his painting, the sculptor must operate exclusively with external light directed at the sculpture, distributing incoming light and creating shadows across the surface of his work.
This is why it is always important for the sculptor to understand in advance where his work will be placed. Thus, Indian sculptures look best in bright natural light, and the work of Gothic sculptors – in semi-darkness and dim light of medieval cathedrals.
Trends in sculpture technique
There are two opposing trends in the color of the sculptures. Sculpture of our day most often involves revealing the natural color of the materials used. At the same time, some sculptors cover their works with bright colors, sometimes far from natural shades, which, in fact, is a continuation of historical traditions. Since ancient times, sculptors have often painted their works, often in a decorative rather than naturalistic manner. We can hardly imagine, however, that Greek statues were painted in ivory or covered in gold paint.
During the Baroque period, the greatest sculptor of his time, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, began to restore the ancient tradition, making extensive use of a combination of white and painted marble and gilded bronze in his works.
Today, it has become difficult to define the boundaries between modern sculpture and ceramics or metalwork. The roles of sculptor and industrial designer are often indistinguishable – sometimes sculptural techniques are used in design, for example, when designing the body of a new car.
But this is also not a new trend: Michelangelo, Bernini, Degas, Picasso – all these masters blurred the boundaries between different directions in art, being successful sculptors and brilliant artists in equal measure.