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 larger forms.
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