The renewal of sculpture

Michael Motteram is a sculptor and recently moved to Portugal from Italy. His studio, Studio Lazzarus, is in Almoçageme, Colares.

I begin by quoting Goethe on Nature: “To whom Nature begins to reveal her open secret experiences an irresistible longing for her close relative – Art. The finest works of Art are at the same time the finest works of Nature, created by mankind from the laws of Nature.”

The renewal of sculpture in our intellectual, materialistic dominated times is, for me, founded on the simple beauty, the incredible rightness and the invigorating vitality of the natural world, and especially in the plant. Goethe, the writer of Faust and the scientist researching natural phenomena (as one sees in his works on the Theory of Colours and the Metamorphosis of the Plant), was profoundly interested in nature.

To observe, study, draw or model a pine cone, a seashell or the sprouting bud of a horse chestnut are almost essential to start sculptural studies. In the plant, you can experience the laws of growth, the rhythms, the qualities of the four elements (Fire, Earth, Air and Water), convex/concave, expansion/contraction and metamorphosis. These same laws underpin sculpture. They are laws and the phenomena of what Rudolf Steiner calls “the etheric world”.

Sculpture should not be an arbitrary (“do anything you feel like”) or whimsical. It has fundamental principles, laws and guidelines. Many readers may remember the sculptor who sold a small quantity of builder’s bricks to the Tate as a sculpture, at what the general public exclaimed was an extortionate price. They reflect perfectly our times – a loss of direction or sense, and an escape into sensationalism.

We must start with the basics, to learn to use and develop our senses to experience the world of form. To look at nature with fresh eyes, to experience what really is living there. Clay modelling and drawing are good techniques for this. Having acquired some of these basic elements, you can move on to working directly in the material, using the classical sculptor materials – wood and stone. For example, using an axe, an archetypal wood fashioning tool, and a section of tree trunk, we can find a form. Or with just a hammer and two stone chisels, and a piece of found beach limestone, we enter into a dialogue. One can begin using the concepts of Goethe to dialogue with Nature, and contribute to her what is truly human – the creative spirit.

• If you would like to see his work or participate in monthly sculpture courses in his studio, contact him on 219 280 576 or email [email protected]