Geoffrey Dashwood. Sculptor

Page 1


2 Acknowledgements 5 Introduction Geoffrey Dashwood 9-12 Foreword Chris Packham 15-19 Beginnings 23 Dimensional evolution 25 Aesthetic evolution 27-29 Theory and practice 33-265 Selected works 267-269 Monumental sculpture

ISBN 1-901403-07-6 British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

277-281 Patination

Additional photography:

285-312 Catalogue raisonné

have often sought little or nothing in return.

Bryan and Cherry Alexander

313-317 Exhibitions

I can recall an unexpected visit from an old

Stephen Bolwell

independence of spirit. I have also enjoyed many spontaneous acts of kindness and premeditated offers of support from others, who

man many years ago. A stranger to me, he knocked on my door and proffered, with

than for the purpose of

apologetic solemnity, the dead body of his

Harry Cory-Wright

review, no part of this book

prized cock golden pheasant, hoping I could

Robert Cotton

may be reproduced, stored

utilise it to ‘make a sculpture out of’.

Leo Dashwood

Many other people, often anonymously, have

Keith Davey at Prudence Cuming Associates

transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written consent of the publishers. Print HSW Print, Tonypandy

given their time and expertise. Their support and assistance have been invaluable. Their love of birds and empathy with my work has touched me. Lastly, but by no means least, I must acknowledge the art collectors across the

Penny Davies, Focus on Photography Stan Dutton P J Gates Ltd, London

globe who have bought my work – over 2000

Geoffrey Ireland

Design and production

bronze sculptures scattered worldwide.

Zuleika Kingdon

Tony Baldaro FSCD

Without their patronage I could not have

Baldaro Graphics Ltd, Bath

sustained a living as an artist.

© 2011 Geoffrey Dashwood

With regard to this book, my special thanks to the following: Tony Baldaro

Christophe Lienhard Chris Packham

319 Public and private collections with contributions from Christopher Browne artist, printmaker and writer 183/212 John Davies artist and writer 261 Gerry Farrell art dealer dust jacket Godfrey Gallia writer and critic 248 Celia de la Hey art historian, writer and critic 55 Edward Horswell art dealer dust jacket Merlin James artist and writer 186/208/252 Jonathan Kingdon artist, writer and zoologist 20/234 William Packer art critic 60/202 Chris Packham naturalist and broadcaster 94/172

Gerry Farrell

Edward Phelps artist, writer and critic 16/32/81/148/156/176/ 199/215/221/250

Tom and Amanda Harvey

John Russell Taylor art critic 29/225/277/282

Leo Dashwood

Edward Horswell Rungwe Kingdon Claude Koenig Chris Packham Steve Russell


Bill Burlington

All rights reserved. Other

in a retrieval system, or

271-275 Bronze casting

Main book photography: Steve Russell

I have enjoyed and endured a dogged

Sir Kyffin Williams RA painter 13 Max Wykes-Joyce art critic 27/155/259


There are complex faculties engaged when creating sculpture. It is a balancing act - spatial awareness, composition, balance, proportion, structure, choices of symmetry or asymmetry, movement, rhythm, harmony and so on. Of course, for all artists, the emphasis on each of these will vary. Add other ingredients, such as taste, inspiration and aspiration, and the recipe becomes complicated indeed. Coming at things from a completely different angle or engaging the right hand side of the brain may help. Perhaps some artists are just plain canny or lucky to achieve the right balance of cold theory and warm emotion. Frankly I have failed miserably to sift any viable conclusion about formula from this utter confusion. Although an interesting debate, personally I have to doubt that theories really matter. The end result, the sculpture, is the destination reached and how the journey was made becomes comparatively irrelevant. I find I rely greatly on instinct, intuition, or eye, being able to discern in the results of my own working methods a balance of the clumsy or elegant, the meaningful or banal, the weak or strong. I have found these sub-conscious thoughts difficult to rationalise and almost impossible to articulate. I accept that life and art are partially inexplicable and intangible. It is just so. GD














The springs of the decision-making process, which are at the heart of creativity, must remain mysterious or the gold would turn into autumn leaves. Edward Phelps


Selected works


Some bird enthusiasts derive great pleasure from either the sheer number of different species seen during a particular period or from rarities, often wretched birds that have been blown off course during migration, many of them likely to die from exhaustion, exposure and starvation. I can fully understand and share the excitement of seeing a rare bird, especially for the first time but I also cherish common everyday birds, many of which I have used as subjects.

Blackbird I 1995 bronze 13in 33cm wide edition 12

In this context rare doesn’t necessarily imply peerless, any more than common defines the mundane, rather that familiarity has bred contempt. Sheer numbers of birds may be of no significant consequence in relation to the simple enjoyment drawn from a personal encounter with just one. GD


Selected works

Selected works



Selected works

Golden Pheasant 1996 bronze 11½ x 34in 29 x 86.5cm edition 12

Selected works


All the forms of the amphibious body point toward the splayed, omnivorous beak open in a silent scream. The bird is an avian thug, its legs stiffening on the plinth, ready for fight or attack. Edward Phelps

By virtue of their visibility and movement, birds are often the most obvious inhabitants of our natural landscape. Different species of birds help define our perception of time and place. The soaring eagle conjures a mountainous wilderness devoid of human existence. The mere sound of a screaming gull can evoke the aroma of the sea. The liquid call of a curlew in spring describes wild moorland in an instant. These sights and sounds act as metaphors for human experiences. GD

Herring Gull 1997 bronze 14½ x 22in 37 x 56cm edition 12


Selected works

Selected works


Red kites are no longer rare. Today they float over many English, Scottish and Welsh counties thanks to an incredibly successful reintroduction programme. They have begun to breed in places where they have been absent for more than a hundred years. The red kite is not only an enigmatic conservation icon, it is a renowned beauty. The dead female which I used for my sculpture was a casualty of the captive breeding scheme. Red kites are big; they have a lengthy and lean physique. Their long, tapering wings and distinctly forked tail lend them an air of elegance. I admit to taking liberties again here with nature’s design. In particular I have re-defined the shape of the wings in order to enhance the liquidity of the form as a whole. The head of the bird is turned around and downward so as to invite the viewer to look back and down over the flow of the sculpture. The National Museum of Wildlife Art at Jackson Hole in the United States staged a large, group mixed media exhibition in 2000, entitled ‘Wildlife Art for a New Century’. A visitors’ survey conducted during this exhibition revealed this red kite bronze as the public’s favourite exhibit. This is perhaps an example of how radically one can adapt nature’s design for art’s sake and yet remain true to, and even enhance, the essential being of the subject. Apparently no one who voted for this sculpture either noticed, or were offended, that the wings were, in a literal anatomical sense, ‘wrong’. Rather they admired the elegance of the form, which is precisely what the sculpture of the red kite is concerned with. GD


Selected works

Red Kite 1999 bronze 26½ x 13½in 67.5 x 34.5cm edition 12

Selected works


Goshawk 1999 bronze 11 x 18in 28 x 45.5cm edition 12

Wild as hawks. Accipiters such as goshawks and sparrowhawks appear to dwell on the edge of sanity. They are neurotic psychopaths, highly strung, impulsive. They are also very agile, efficient and merciless predators. In my twenties I trained and flew both species, and became very familiar with their idiosyncrasies. I grew to understand and admire them. Their human equivalents are arguably institutionalised. GD 174

Selected works

Selected works


It is no more possible to depict every feather of a bird in a sculpture than it is to show every leaf on a tree in a painting. Once you decide on degree of detail you have to maintain it consistently or the piece will lose its ‘presence’ and become a trivial thing, not a sculpture at all. But the detail itself, by its wealth of interest, is a kind of trap for the attention of the unwary, both viewers and artists. This is where so much animal art loses its claim to artistic seriousness of purpose. It is clear that, if detail is reduced, the resulting austerity allows the indications that remain to be vastly more important, without the need to distort or overstate them. The artist can avoid both the confused babbling of detail or the ‘shouting’ of a more significant message over the top of it. A quiet, contemplative expression becomes possible in this way that most artists have thought was not to be attained in animal art at all. It is a battle that Geoffrey Dashwood has continually had to fight, on behalf of his chosen subject matter, that there are great things to be said, broad statements to be made, profound feelings to be expressed, by the deeper form of art that he has created within this field. It does not have to do with animals only. It touches on the human relationship with the animal world, on the animal nature within us, and at the same time, the ‘otherness’ of animals; on our capacity to become aware of and respond to a vast range of emotional signs which the behaviours of animals display. This is not to indulge in anthropomorphic sentiment, a dreadful fault of which Dashwood is never guilty, but to discover that the real roots of our existence run deeper and wider than we can know if we turn our eyes exclusively upon human affairs. Christopher Browne


Selected works

Snow Goose 2000 bronze 12 x 16in 30.5 x 40.5cm edition 12

Selected works


I contemplated the corpse of the lesser flamingo. I wanted to realise this eccentric form in sculpture but the dilemma lay in its extreme morphology – a relatively heavy body supported by absurdly long slender legs. Calls to bronze foundries with dimensions revealed the fact that such legs, even with the addition of steel armatures, would not support the weight of the cast bronze body. I was forced to radically re-assess. The solution was to fold the complex mechanics of the anatomy into a compact, asymmetrical structure. GD


Selected works

Lesser Flamingo 2000 bronze 7½ x 18½in 19 x 47cm edition 12

Selected works


The scarlet ibis epitomises much of my ethos as a sculptor. It is the bird, the scarlet ibis, anatomically accurate enough to be true to this particular species of wader and no other. The sculpture within the bird is conveyed by a design ethic in re-invention of the physique. The arching, square-shouldered back echoes the snaking convex and concave arcs and curves flowing throughout the silhouette from beak tip to feet. The exaggerated tiptoe poise elevates the elegance of the whole. I can remember handing over the finished model to Rungwe Kingdon at the Pangolin Foundry and later over lunch, peering at him through a glass of red wine, asking him if he could emulate the transparent red in my glass in the patina. The result, for which I claim no credit other than the idea, is for me a triumphant marriage of colour and form. GD

Scarlet Ibis 2001 bronze 15½ x 14in 39.5 x 35.5cm edition 12


Selected works

Selected works


My home and studio lie on an ancient beacon site, atop the western escarpment that runs along the edge of the New Forest, overlooking the River Avon plateau. I enjoy life here and so, fortunately, do the hobby falcons. They are a common but distinguished part of the local summer sky. Hobbys are supremely fast, agile hunters. They can take birds such as swallows and swifts on the wing. I have watched them take dragonflies with consummate ease. I decided to attempt to describe something of the spirit of this bird’s amazing aerial abilities. Difficult. Sculpture is so earth-bound. The athletic little falcon is flexed for action, tilted severely and twisted off axis with a tenuous hold. A display of the raptor’s presence and intent is held in tension within the form. I have pushed the animation of the concept as far as I feel I can or would want to go. Dashing, daring, divine hobby. GD


Selected works

Hobby II 2005 bronze 13 x 10in 33 x 25.5cm edition 12

Selected works


What is interesting about Dashwood’s monumental works is that there is no sense of strain and no hint of purely mechanical enlargement. Even when, as is the case with the harrier, the large work is closely related in concept to an earlier, smaller work, it occupies its grander space without uncertainty or self-consciousness. It was Henry Moore who in the Thirties, when he was exclusively a carver, observed that every sculpture had its one right size and no other. Later, when he had taken to working in bronze, he ignored his own precept completely but Dashwood, who has always worked as a sculptor entirely by modelling and casting the results, sees in the flexibility of the process no licence for indiscriminate mechanical enlargement. As his style evolves towards greater formalisation, its monumental aspects become ever more pronounced. John Russell Taylor


Selected works

Barn Owl 2005 monumental bronze 82½ x 29in 210 x 73cm edition 6

Selected works




The evolutionary dice that threw birds the freedom of flight fell short of the two sixes. A life crucially dependent on the constant vagaries of weather, availability of food and need for shelter expose the deadly sharp cut and thrust of nature’s double-edged sword. Birds are pugnacious, vulnerable, ephemeral creatures, their tentative grip on existence touchingly determined yet quite uncertain. A strong healthy bird with a broken wing is mercilessly condemned to certain death. This inheritance is mirrored in their fragile anatomy; lightweight bones that enable flight; feathers that, regardless, demand meticulous maintenance. Every aspect of birds’ physicality is honed to minimal structure in relation to its function. The absurdly long legs and elegant gait of a wading curlew, the arresting, heart shaped face of a roosting barn owl, or the near vertical downward tilt of a reed warbler’s fleeting pose are all images observed and later recalled, conjured up again in the mind. When these amalgamations of sights seen and subsequent ideas pondered are given rein in plaster, I need a resolution to set some permanency to them. For posterity perhaps, but more likely in self–interest, an artist’s alchemy is to turn self-indulgent thought into income whilst avoiding that most awful of contemplations, employment. I would argue this is as good a motive as any. I greatly admire the sheer versatility of bronze and cannot conceive these dreams being realised in solid reality through any other medium. I find myself in precisely the same predicament as birds; a compromised situation. Short of becoming a bronze founder myself I am obliged to invest trust and faith in others.

left Pouring molten bronze from the crucible into the mould top Sand moulding equipment centre The raw material; bronze ingots bottom Multiple pourings


Bronze casting

It has repeatedly been stated that a rapport between sculptor and founder is crucial for success and words such as empathy are casually cited in support. I once subscribed to the theory myself but now, having had so many bronzes cast by various different foundries, this appears to me to be a fallacy, an established ideology. Considering the vast and eclectic variety of works cast by the average fine art foundry in any one working year, it defies all logic that any foundry and its entire workforce could feel this empathy with all artists. Whilst I respectfully acknowledge the enormous range of fine skills exercised daily within a foundry’s hectic environment I have realised that replication, not interpretation, is their goal. How the founder judges an artist’s work or worth is therefore irrelevant, to me as are his motives for casting. Bronze casting



A word about colour in sculpture. No doubt through misconceptions about the antique which arose when ancient Greek marble statuary started to be unearthed and seriously regarded at the renaissance, it was assumed always to have been a pure, gleaming white, mainly because that was the way time had left it. The fact that most of it was originally highly, naturalistically coloured, was ignored. Consequently colour was regarded as being exclusively the province of painting, while sculptures in marble or bronze were expected, if serious, to be monochromatic. Even after a widespread use of colour in sculpture of the late 19th century had apparently made it respectable, a prejudice persisted that colour in realistic sculpture bought it too close to the aesthetic of Madame Tussaud. To that extent, Dashwood’s use of colour in his sculptures perhaps still needs to be defended. But just a glance at his work clearly indicates that in its colouring, no less than its form, it could hardly be further from the literal naturalism of waxwork representation. Dashwood’s colouring is evocative rather than reflecting the literal facts of the matter: it serves to remind us that this is sculpture, rather than a reproduction of nature.










Most people are enchanted and fascinated by patinas. They can be seductive. The facts are simple. There exist only two basic natural colours of bronze. The raw metal is bright and when polished, rather vulgar and reflective, much like copper, which is its main ingredient. Exposed to the elements, bronze oxidises and turns verdigris. Older public monuments and other outdoor sculpture cast in bronze, which most people believe are ‘bronze colour’, are in fact coloured with heat and chemicals during a process called patination. ‘True’ patinas are a direct result of chemical reaction, others are oxidised onto the surface, again with heat. My first few bronzes were cast at the old Morris Singer Foundry in Basingstoke, Hampshire. I later moved to the appropriately named Phoenix Foundry, also in Basingstoke, then occupying miniscule premises at Viables. One of my primary observations was that the majority of the finished bronzes at both foundries were patinated dark brown. When I enquired as to why this was, I was informed that the colour was traditionally accepted. Perhaps one of the advantages of not having experienced formal art training is that one is often blissfully unaware of some of the more dogmatic aspects of accepted aesthetics, passed on by generations of art students and academics. I found this conservative perception of and attitude toward bronze colour rather odd. I began to wonder what some experimentation might yield. The prejudice in the traditional argument is that all sculpture is primarily about form, not colour. Quite so, I agree. But I also contend that the language of form can be read and understood just as successfully, or even enhanced, if the colour is sensitively chosen and applied, whether brown or any other colour.

John Russell Taylor 276

A bronze wren engulfed in flame during patination

Detail of patina on saker falcon



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