Wednesday, 3 November 2010

New Sculpture: 'Torquemada' the Grand Inquisitor

First, I bring you the background information followed by pictures documenting the process later on.
One of sixteen sculptures I'm making for a new installation in Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre for December (with Limmud) is the Grand Inquisitor of Spain, Torquemada. The image above is of him, but the image below is El Greco’s “Portrait of a Cardinal” (1600), believed to be that of Cardinal Don Fernando Niño de Guevera (1541-1609), Grand Inquisitor and Archbishop of Seville. Both images have been important visual sources for the making of this sculpture and I have combined both into my own artistic interpretation.

Tomás de Torquemada(1420
– September 16, 1498) was a fifteenth century Spanish Dominican Friar, first Inquisitor General of Spain, and confessor to Isabella I of Castile. He was famously described by the Spanish chronicler Sebastián de Olmedo as "The hammer of heretics, the light of Spain, the saviour of his country, the honour of his order". He is known for his zealous campaign against the crypto-Jews and crypto-Muslims of Spain. He was one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra Decree, which expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492. The number of autos-de-fé during Torquemada's tenure as Inquisitor General have been hotly debated over the years. Today, there is a general consensus that about 2000 people were burned by the Spanish Inquisition in the whole of Spain between 1480 and 1530, while Torquemada was Grand Inquisitor from 1483 until his death in 1498. This is one of the sixteen sculptures I'm making for a new installation in Warwick, during December.

So moving onto the Process now, I have been working with newspaper as their seems to be a shortage of plastics from the local Iceland deliveries at the moment. For the past 2-3 weeks I have been unsuccessful with my timings for raiding plastic from food deliveries. Only today, was I able to get one bin bag full of plastics (used for building moulds).

For the extra fine details of the hands and face I'm using pretty cheap modelling clay (not as elitist as other products for modelling but good for small scale and quite effective)

First I started making the hands, each finger made, then stuck together on the base of the hand, similar to how I make hands using tightly rolled up newspaper and tape for other sculptures, once you have the craft method and built in vision of how a hand, arm or leg looks like (its muscles, its forms which comes over time and making many of these), its quite similar and easy to mould in any material.

Working from the two images you saw above, I scrunched up a ball literally of newspaper into the desired head shape. This is not exactly a perfect circle, the head always dips in at the back of the head making it more spherical than circular. This is best seen on a fetus from a side view.

Here you can see the head from the side with the newspaper underneath. In the ball, I pressed in gently, two pits for where the eyes will be. I then proceeded to use the modelling clay on top.

Here you can see I've added in all the features and built up as well as worked away all of the textures. The nose, beard, bowl hair cut and balding head.

I've photographed this from different angles so you can see the detail on all sides. Clay is added to the eyes and cheekbones (leading to the corners of the mouth) as well.

And there are some very cool shadows on the face due to the pits in the eyes, and the external features which I like very much.

Next, was the body of the sculpture. For the clothing there are two main components, the under garment and dress and the overcoat. Since I had no plastics, I built the body out of paper over an old 2L coke bottle which I filled with water to give it weight and solidity.

Because in the photograph of the El Greco painting, the clothes all have these elaborate folds, I decided I would make this in paper and go over them later so I could save using the modelling clay for this.

Here you can see the roughness of the modroc used to go over the figure.

I then built out of newspaper the over coat which rests on top of the body. I trimmed it to look better, puffed it up inside and padded it so it would fit nicely. I also covered it with white gaffer tape to match.

Then I taped the head into position using strong gaffer tape to lip over the folds on the collar of the neck. Modelling clay does not allow anything to stick to it as it is not a dust free surface, so I made provisions for this when securing it into place.

Next, I added the hands. I had built the hands onto toothpicks so that they can pierce into the sculpture and this also gives the arms strength and extra support when you cannot simply tape it on.

Est... Voila!

I forgot to mention, I used white cheap 'Monster' branded spray paint to spray the head and hands white for uniformity.

Stay tuned for more pics documenting the progression of other sculptures up until the exhibition of the installation.

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