Sculpture is one of the oldest art forms known to man, having existed for thousands of years. From the Sphinx of Ancient Egypt to the gods of Ancient Greece to the presidential faces of Mount Rushmore, sculpture has long been appreciated by mankind.
While traditional sculpture generally involved the shaping of various types of stone or even wood, modern sculpture makes use of a much wider variety of materials. Moreover, some forms of modern sculpture make use of very traditional materials but use the most modern of techniques to shape the subject material.
Wood has been used in sculpting for many thousands of years. Unfortunately, due to the nature of wood there are very few surviving examples that remain intact. Traditionally wood was sculptured using a hammer and chisel and various other woodworking tools in order to painstakingly shape the subject.
However, in recent years chainsaw sculpture has increased significantly in popularity. While it requires a totally different skill set, chainsaw sculpture can nevertheless produce astonishing results. By definition it is much faster paced and not quite so refined as traditional wooden sculpting but a distinctive style has been produced.
Another form of sculpture that has come to the fore in recent years and stands in stark contrast to traditional sculpting skills is ice sculpture. With modern refrigeration methods ice sculpting is now possible in parts of the world where it would have been very definitely impossible in the past.
When shaping the subject ice, the artist may use traditional tools and skills as have been used in shaping stone in the past. On the other hand, chainsaw sculpture may be applied directly to ice as it is to wood. This art form is certainly growing in impetuous, with an entire hotel sculpted from ice having been created in recent years.
The shaping of metal is the image that symbolises modern sculpture in the eyes of many. This skill set certainly makes a clean break from the traditional stone sculpting skills and rather applies the skills associated with heavy industry, namely welding and plasma cutting.
Many metal sculpture artists are former industrial welders who have purchased their own welding and cutting equipment and turned their hand to this unique art form. Projects vary greatly in their scope from simple decorative items to practical but attractive designs such as gates.
Into the future
While the traditional skills of sculpting may have declined significantly in recent decades, the field of sculpting is still alive and well, particularly in the unique art forms of modern sculpture. Replacing the hammer and chisel with the chainsaw or even metal cutting equipment, these innovative skills are growing in momentum year on year.
Just as the works of Ancient Athens and Ancient Rome stand as testimony to the masonry skills of a people of long ago, so too will the metalwork sculptures of today stand as a testimony to the skills of the welders of today who painstakingly labour over these objects of great beauty.
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