After being assigned to teach a module called ‘Workshop
Practice II: Metal’ I learned that the Pace Gallery in Hong Kong were
presenting an exhibition of work by Alexander Calder allowing my students a
wonderful opportunity to see up-close how a major artist has handled metal.
The module introduced the idea of collecting discarded
material such as drinks, food cans, biscuit tins and other metal ‘rubbish’, and
transforming them into artworks. Although I had to teach basic skills on how to
turn the metal objects into raw material, this did not take too long and once
the students understood that they could manipulate the metal without harming
themselves, they began to experiment during exercises I lead on cutting,
rolling, folding and joining metal.
Eventually, later in the module, they then used this raw
material to create artworks. I tried to guide the students to see possibilities,
some serious and some fun and mischievous and also to see the metal in terms of
texture and colour and I also demonstrated how to create formers to bend the
metal and also wooden frames on which to pin the metal in sheets to create
The Calder exhibition was a perfect case study as the work
on show was quite small with many maquettes for larger sculptures. The students
were able to examine how Calder had joined sections of metal together with
rivets and how he had sometimes used metal wire to thread the pieces together.
The exhibition displayed hanging mobiles, standing mobiles
and stabiles. In the centre of the gallery stood the wonderful standing mobile The Tree
(1960), perfectly balanced with
its large branch forming the mobile section of the work.
I really hope that I demonstrated to the students that metal
can be manipulated as easily as most other materials and how it can also be
found all around us without the need for a trip to the art materials supplier.
Black: Two Dots and Eleven (1958)
The Tree (1960)
7 Legged Beast (maquette) (1956)
Conical Gussets (1956)
Bleu, jaune, rouge sur base courbe (1969)
Ex-Octopus (maquette) (1936)
Black Areas (1938) - Shadow of the work on the wall