Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blake Ward: ‘Just Beneath the Surface’

Toronto, Canada - Articsok Gallery opens an exhibition of the internationally renowned sculptor Blake Ward: ‘Just Beneath the Surface’. Opening: Thursday, October 9, 2014, 6-9pm at 1697 St. Clair avenue West, Toronto. October 9, 2014 – November 9, 2014. Blake Ward was born in Yellowknife in the North West Territories in Canada, then raised and educated in Edmonton, Alberta where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1979 from the University of Alberta. Having exhausted his repertoire of steel abstract sculptures, he found his true interest lay in classical figurative sculpture. Unable to find a teacher in Canada, Blake moved to Paris in 1985 where he studied with Cyril Heck until 1989. When the opportunity arose to be closer to the foundry of his choice, Foundry Venturi Arte in Bologna, he moved to his current studio in Monte Carlo in 1991.

Blake sculpts live models in clay, then uses the “lost wax method” before the final bronze is cast. For the two decades, the marbles have been hand carved replicas produced at Franco Cervietti in Pietrasanta, Italy. Blake adopts the European convention of limiting his bronze sculptures to twelve copies made up of four “artist’s proofs” and the “main body” of eight models. The difference between the two categories remains in name only, as there is no physical difference between the actual bronze copies. The marble sculptures are made to a maximum of six editions. Blake signs all the sculptures and many of them contain a ”key” to insure against replication.

The early works focus on classical figurative sculpture with traditional techniques used since antiquity. Finding inspiration in the work of Degas and Rodin, Blake presents modern evocations of classical themes based on movement, dance, mythology, feminism and the human spirit. Technical precision and anatomical accuracy are evident in these early sculptures. Then, Blake’s work evidenced a socio-political voice calling out the humanitarian dreams of justice, truth and equality.

Combining art with activism began when Blake was invited to teach at the University of Hanoi in 2003. While traveling throughout Viet Nam, he learned about the tragic effects of landmines in post-conflict countries. His inspiration turned to “intentional art”, where concept and purpose point directly at an issue, while simultaneously proposing aspects of the solution. In his “Fragments” collection, Blake deliberately “de-sculpted” the figures, questioning ancient ideas of beauty relative to the destructive nature of our modern times. There are 19, one-quarter life size sculptures, each named after a landmine. In association with No More Landmines and Adopt A Minefield of the United Nations, the proceeds of the sale of Fragments have aided in education and the clearing of minefields in Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Angola.

 Blake’s activism expanded to another series of work, Rethink, where his love for figurative sculpture was invigorated by a new sense of what art can actually do. Rethink aims for provocation, asking viewers to question their beliefs about truth, law, equality, faith and religion. The Vietnamese Virgin Mary was created in a class in Viet Nam with the intention of reflecting a global religion.

Blake’s installation piece, The Burning Buddha, shows a female Buddha in the act of self-immolation, the ultimate act of political protest. Newer sculptures, such as This is Not Christ, have been repainted and marked with graffiti—a deliberate wake up call to the holders of authoritarian and rigid dogmas.

His latest series, The Spirits, have crossed over into the abstract and ethereal realms where he aims for provocative figures (Angels and Phantoms) that are able to expand the consciousness of our inner realities.

 Holding fast to his love of the human figure, Blake remains true to the representational quality and realistic proportions of traditional sculpture while simultaneously exploring new ways to comment on the trinity of human complexity: mind, body, and spirit. Realizing that our lives flow between our inner world and how we interact with the external world, the idea of opening up an interior to the figurative pieces began to take form.

 Angels and Phantoms are birthed with two intertwining structures. The external structure, with its vulnerable and textured surface, holds the figurative aspect; while an internal framework, which is flowing and bright, continues the aesthetic origins of who we really are. The outer surface is our Physical self, while the inner structure is our Individual, more organic self twisting and turning as we evolve our souls, our character and what we imagine as our spirit. Each of these works is unique and will not be reproduced.

Blake’s art has shown in Monaco, England, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong, Delhi, The United States and Canada.

Articsok Gallery,

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