Work in Progress

At present I am considering the whole idea of the “Work in Progress”.  I am working on a small bronze airman’s helmet which will be fitted on to a vacuum pump from a WWII Spitfire engine:-


The above was my first try at the wax helmet; I was dissatisfied with it and took it apart. Already the wax is undergoing a continual process of “becoming” the shape I want. All the detail I put on it gets taken out and re-worked. Is it still the same wax?


A plaster mould is built around it and the wax is melted out. Inside the mould is a space which is the exact negative copy of the wax, including all the surface marking. The wax mould is now “finished” and has passed into the past, but the space it leaves behind represents the work still in process.

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When the bronze is poured into the space, broken out, cooled, patinated and polished it is still a work in progress. It will continue to change as it darkens or is repolished – maybe by a new owner. The bronze’s own intrinsic qualities will make it change colour as it reacts to its surroundings.


With acknowledgements to Roddy Mathieson

Henri Bergson in his great metaphysical work Creative Evolution, presented time not simply as a way of measuring one moment succeeding another, but as a creative force in itself. He saw time as a process, one which is always working towards ever new forms; and interestingly he chose the metaphor of the artist as one way of making this clear:

“The finished portrait is explained by the features of the model, by the nature of the artist, by the colors spread out on the palette; but, even with the knowledge of what explains it, no one, not even the artist, could have foreseen exactly what the portrait would be, for to predict it would have been to produce it before it was produced…. Even so with regard to the moments of our life, of which we are the artisans. Each of them is a kind of creation.”

My bronze also contains –  enfolds? –  other ideas of time insofar as I am deliberately referring historically to the physical integration which Spitfire pilots felt with their machines. “‘It was a bit like a love affair…a oneness that was intimate’.” 

I created three Spitfire-related sculptures among the works I made for my Master’s Show last summer. When I was working on them I was conscious of the fact that the aeroplane was a killing machine yet was lauded as one of the best engineered, most responsive, even “balletic” pieces of machinery then available. And its victims were often its own pilots. The engine part of this current work may be seen as a piece of the plane, or as a face, or a skull.

In creating this object I am conscious of the huge amount of history, sentiment and propaganda associated with what I am making. The engine part is of the past, my wax/bronze/in-process helmet is of the present; but there is a “thickness” to the time references I am making and a continual to-and-fro between them.

Henri Bergson. Creative Evolution.