SEED – Sedna project – Cityscape research

After having settled on the idea of creating a cityscape, I’m still not certain about the tone or theme I want the sculpture to have. I find the best place to start with this process is research and looking at other works which apply to my idea, and trying to pin down what it is I like or don’t like about them and how I might incorporate that into my work.

One of the first interesting images I came across was this store display for the store Christian Louboutin and was made by the group Specialist Models coincidentally based in Cardiff.


What I think draws me to this display the most is the contrast of the pure white buildings against the dark background, creating a striking skyline. While the sculpture is not necessarily of buildings, they create building like structures and are geometric flat structures with a minimal level of detail, but while undetailed they are still complex and interesting to the eye.

Another artist who I came across was Matthew Picton, which is very interesting to me. While he is creating cityscapes, he depicts them in an extremely interesting and unusual way by expressing the layout and form of the buildings and the city, but without showing buildings and merely implying them. Not only this, but the delicate and fragile nature of these sculptures small sculptures is very interesting considering that cities are gigantic looming concrete structures that we only navigate from a street level. The bird’s eye view perspective gives us a completely different perspective and take on a city, allowing us to appreciate the sense of space and composition, the distance between ourselves and the building giving us space to reflect rather than being swallowed and surrounded by it.

Matthew Picton - Boston

Matthew Picton – Boston

Matthew Picton - Lower Manhattan Smoke

Matthew Picton – Lower Manhattan Smoke

Mattew Picton - London 1666 (detail)

Mattew Picton – London 1666 (detail)

This has flagged up a very interesting thought to me, which is that almost all sculptures of the city and of buildings are always of our street level perspective of it. Even though we have control of scale, we always give the buildings the context of being large and never forget the fact that they tower over us.

What also interests me about these pieces is how distinct these cityscapes are. This brings back my question of whether or not I should set out to model my piece after Cardiff, as it is clear how much difference the subject can make on the form of the city. Certainly out of this selection I would instinctively say that the Boston sculpture is the most “City -like”, probably due to the connotations of the dark smog and the extremely dense structure which lacks in open space and is almost claustrophobic.

One picture which really struck me was this paper sculpture by Oliver Bieräugel which was made to promote a company. The use of light in the buildings really captures what I had in mind for my own sculpture, as well as the clustered composition.


Oliver Bieraugel – Fast magazine commission 


It’s interesting to note that a lot of these sculptural pieces of cityscapes are paper crafted. While this is something I will have to consider, I’m not sure that I have the time or the level of skill to create something as intricate and impressive which would compare well against these works. Many of the paper craft sculptures that I find online are extremely impressive and clearly take a lot of technical skill, and the people who make them have a presumably many years of experience in the area, and only the best and most impressive get showcased. I feel like placed in this environment I would inevitably fall short. Not only this, but considering the Sedna project is to be submitted for competition and exhibition it could be troublesome having a piece which is very fragile and easily damaged or may fall apart.

I then stumbled across these ceramic sculptures by Evan Hobart, who has created a series of cityscapes atop of and incorporating animal skulls. Hobart says in his artist’s statement:

“My work examines today’s world and many of its less attractive facets. Consumerism, capitalism, corporate greed, global climate change, bumper-to-bumper-traffic, politics, war, pollution, overdevelopment, undernourishment, and eventual extinction are some of the topics that populate my artwork.”

This again comes back to questioning my view of the city as being this abominable and crushing structure in which we are all mere cogs in a machine, and while I completely see his point I don’t know that I completely agree. Perhaps this is because Cardiff is a reasonably small and quiet city compared to say New York.

Evan Hobart - "Every thing we do marks out place in time" - 2012

Evan Hobart – “Every thing we do marks out place in time” – 2012

Evan Hobart - "The smell of the world is burnt" - 2012

Evan Hobart – “The smell of the world is burnt” – 2012

On the subject of flat white sculptures, I also came across this piece by Laurie Poast. Unlike all the other sculptures I have looked at, Poast’s work is largely 2 dimentional and depicts cityscapes in an almost pictorial manner. The buildings themselves are very illustrative, but yet have a level of detail which makes them clearly distinct from one another and they all have a level of character to them.

Laurie Poast - "porcelain cityscape architectural wall installation"

Laurie Poast – “porcelain cityscape architectural wall installation”

Laurie Poast - "Lineage" - 2014

Laurie Poast – “Lineage” – 2014

Unsurprisingly, when many people think of cityscapes their minds often turn to skyscrapers. There can be no debate that despite their ecological costs, they can be truly impressive and awe inspiring structures and a symbol of mankind’s ability to create and structure the world around us. While skyscrapers began life as being almost purely utilitarian and functional buildings, they are now a canvas on which artistic creativity can be expressed, becoming artistic icons of a city rather than simply an ever present looming figure.

DH Burnham: Railway Exchange, Chicago, 1904

DH Burnham: Railway
Exchange, Chicago, 1904

Frank Gehry’s designs are a perfect example of this combination of beauty and function, and I can’t help but admire them

frank gehry

Frank Gehry – triple skyscraper proposal for toronto

Frank Gehry - triple skyscraper proposal for toronto

Frank Gehry – triple skyscraper proposal for toronto

Frank Gehry - triple skyscraper proposal for toronto prototypes

Frank Gehry – triple skyscraper proposal for toronto prototypes

Rather than polluting our skyline, these beautiful structures only improve it, and are a symbol of humanity’s ability to inspire, create and achieve, rather than greed and over development. However it can’t be ignored the fact that these structures no matter how beautiful and iconic they may be, these buildings cost millions upon billions of pounds to construct, never mind the energy then taken to fuel the construction and the building itself. Perhaps they are also symbols of our willing naivety when it comes to climate change and the damage we are doing to the environment, blindly soldiering forward with production when we have all been told of the fuel shortages ahead and the cost we are having on the planet. We continue on, pushing real action on the matter into the long grass and focusing on short term rewards such as a beautiful building or our own conveniences.

I have to question whether making art which “raises awareness” of our energy consumption and ecological damage really has any use at all, such as Evan Hobart’s work, as we are all already aware of these issues to one degree or another, and yet none of us make any real push for change and there it is fruitless to fight against human nature to live in denial.


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