Last night I got to watch my friend Sunti do the last bit of work on one of his sculptures of Jesus. I posted some of these photos back in December https://brendaahearn.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/capturing-christ/ . The plan was for me to get to do formal studio shots with these, but that plan has gone completely out the window as Sunti and his wife and daughter are all leaving for Thailand tomorrow.
I love the sculpture though and when I had the chance to do a few more photos of it, of course, I jumped at it.
One of the things that has really fascinated me while working with Sunti is the process of how a sculpture is made. I think I’ve gotten a bit spoiled by working with Sunti. Sunti does most of the work on the sculpture himself. He starts with wax and carves every detail by hand. I would know. I’ve watched him do it. Technology exists for people to simply do laser sculpting where the computer does all the work. I’m sure some of what this produces is quite lovely, but that isn’t sculpting to my mind. Frankly that’s cheating. Beautiful. But cheating. Sunti’s artwork isn’t some computer generation. It is his artistic vision brought into three-dimensional reality by one of the most talented artists I have personally ever encountered.
I am awestruck by his work. I don’t expect that will ever change.
Here in Montana Sunti has his bronzes done by Kalispell Art Casting. That’s where we were last night. He has his own way of doing the patina and that’s what I came in to photograph. Well, I got to photograph the beginning and the end. I had an appointment in between. : )
Personally I like the look of the raw bronze, but as I understand it the sculptures really need to be protected. This is where the patina comes in. And it adds a whole other dimension to the art. It adds either the lightest touch of color or I’ve seen some artists turn sculptures into what remind me of porcelain-like painting.
These photos start with the cleaning process after all the metal work has been done. After the sculpture has been poured Sunti likes to come in and do a lot of fine detail work on the metal. He’s never satisfied. I once heard a poet say that they had to eventually publish their poems just so they would have to stop working on them. Sunti is like this. If he didn’t have a deadline, he might never stop working and re-working the details.
After the piece is clean the patina process begins. This is the section of photos I missed. So we’ll jump to the end.
The color of the patina is determined by how many coats one applied. The patina is applied while the sculpture is not and the heating is done with a blow torch. This must be something Sunti has just learned through experience, because apparently you can burn the patina if it’s too hot. I personally am fascinated by the blue flames and the metal.
The last step in the process is to seal the patina while it is still warm. This i love because the steam generated by the wax on the metal creates some cool effects. When all this is done, one applies one last coat of wax and then buffs the entire piece.
I really wish I was going to get to do formal shots of this sculpture. Controlled lighting. A black velvet background. A couple of hours to spend looking and visually exploring the photographic possibilities, but that will have to wait. For now I’m glad to share the these photos. Erica and Sunti will be back. At very least they’ll be in the area for the Calgary Stampede and that’s close enough that I can drive north and see them there. I’ll be looking forward to that. Who knows, maybe by then Sunti will have created another version of Jesus for me to photograph.