Beyond Representation

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Skywalker
machinery, muscle car, custom car, sculpture, mobile sculpture, car as sculpture, steel sculpture, welding, drawing in space, sculpture and relationship to the ground, art as response to the environment, how a sculpture "sits" machinery parts, steel plates,sources of inspiration, drawing line in space, instinctual artistic practice, flexible,, sculpture, metal, abstract sculpture,Emma Lake Artists' Workshop
description
start quoteI always look for what I call the passage and that is sort of the pathway which takes you into work; it sasy this is what I want to be because it is always something new to the world.end quote
-- Douglas Bentham

Muscle car Douglas Bentham grew up surrounded by machinery. His father worked for the highways department, and was always at work on one piece of machinery or another. While Bentham was studying for his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, he helped his father build a "hot rod", or what we might now call a muscle car or custom car. The name might change, but such cars continue to be powerful, one-of-a-kind expressions of mobile sculpture.

Putting that car together was his introduction to the art of sculpture, Bentham says. It was also one of the deciding factors of his life's work. In 1969, the same year he received his degree, he moved the car out of the workshop and began making  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  out of steel. He's been doing it full-time ever since.

Bentham began by welding together pieces and parts from farm and industrial machinery. He then moved toward using  steelAn alloy of iron and carbon capable of being tempered to many degrees of hardness. (Artlex.com)  plate and paper-thin sheets of steel as his work evolved. "Steel is technically flexible and versatile," he said in 1973. After 20 years of working with steel Bentham began experimenting with other materials like brass and bronze, influenced by his friend and  mentorA wise and faithful counselor or monitor. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  In art terms, an older established artist or teacher who takes a personal interest in the career of a younger artist and teaches, supports and advocates for the younger person.  Anthony Caro, who was the guest artist at the Emma Lake Artists' Workshop in 1977.

Creating a  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  like Skywalker is something like making a  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (Artlex.com)  in the air. As Bentham put it in a 1984 interview, "Viewers have an option of addressing  two-dimensionalHaving height and width, but no depth; flat. (Artlex.com)  painting, but a  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  occupies space. Hopefully it can involve the viewer in an instinctual way." (Robertson, 1984)

When the work is an  abstractImagery which departs from representational accuracy, to a variable range of possible degrees. Abstract artists select and then exaggerate or simplify the forms suggested by the world around them.  (Artlex.com)   sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  like Bentham's Skywalker, it forces us to examine it carefully from several perspectives. This is reflected in Bentham's  artist statementA commentary by an artist on an artwork, and exhibition, belief system, or any other topic.  when he said that, "for as long as I have been making objects, I have been concerned with how those objects 'sit' - how they occupy  spaceSpace can be the area around, within or between images or elements. Space can be created on a two-dimensional surface by using such techniques as overlapping, object size, placement, colour intensity and value, detail and diagonal lines.  in relation to the ground, to the sky, to the vastness of the prairies."

While the prairie landscape may have inspired his work, Bentham endorses the idea that works like Skywalker are not "prairie sculptures." He regards them as his response to the environment, not his definition of it.

additional resources I'm on a Beauty Quest
Duration: 1:18 min
Size: 5568kb
My Work is a Collage
Duration: 1:53 min
Size: 7950kb
Skywalker
Duration: 1:33 min
Size: 6231kb
The Qualities of Steel
Duration: 1:15 min
Size: 5526kb
Why Emma Lake is Still Important
Duration: 1:19 min
Size: 5415kb
Things to Think About
  • What do you think Bentham means when he says he hopes his work involves the viewer in an instinctual way?
Online Activity
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Everything in the visual world can be perceived of as a  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of geometric shapes and forms. Shape is  two-dimensionalHaving height and width, but no depth; flat. (Artlex.com)  and form refers to shapes that are three-dimensional. Bentham's piece presented in this theme, Skywalker, includes both. Some of the most interesting  spaceSpace can be the area around, within or between images or elements. Space can be created on a two-dimensional surface by using such techniques as overlapping, object size, placement, colour intensity and value, detail and diagonal lines.  occurs between the solid parts of the sculpture. This is negative space.

Create a  virtualExisting not in actual fact or form, but in essence or effect in the mind, especially as a product of the imagination or of illusion. (Artlex.com)  sculpture

Studio Activity

Create your own sculpture

  • Draw an image of a pedestal, then cut out shapes from coloured paper and arrange them on the pedestal to create a plan for a sculpture.
  • Consider negative spaces.
References

Heath, Terrence. A Conversation with Douglas Bentham. Exhibition catalogue. Glenbow/Alberta Institute, Calgary, Alberta, 1975.

Sheila Robertson. 'Abstract sculptor satisfies himself, then his viewers.' Saskatoon Star Phoenix, November 24, 1984, p 16.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning