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Reflections

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The fact that I call myself a 'sculptor' and refer to my works as 'sculptures' often creates a problem for visitors to my studio or to my occasional exhibitions.  Most people have preconceived views, based on tradition or on more contemporary examples as to what sculpture may or may not be like.  I hope visitors to this website will have discovered something the like of which they have not seen before and will find the surprise not entirely disagreeable!

My training as a sculptor was at a time when much emphasis was put on study of the human figure and that has remained with me as a most fruitful source of sculptural ideas and is fundamental to what I do.Peter at his design desk

My subsequent career took me through many activities in which I acquired new skills, techniques, knowledge of materials and experience of solving problems, all of which have found their application in my current way of working.

Perhaps the period I spent working in the film industry has had the most obvious influence on my sculptures.

In the film studios I was fascinated by the way that clay models I made, translated into fibrous plaster, would be taken to one of the vast sound stages where, with the additional contribution from plasterers, carpenters, painters, set dressers, lighting engineers, etc etc, the illusion of  the interior of  a cathedral or a Buddhist temple, a stately home or a humble cottage would be created.  These were the environments in which the actors and actresses would perform.  Having the necessary skills in clay, plaster, woodwork, painting and basic electrics it occurred to me that I could assemble similar "sets", albeit at a smaller scale, and then could use my figurative skills to make my own actors and actresses to perform within them.

The seed having been planted it was some time before it yielded fruit.  It took me quite a while to gain the courage to break with the "truth to material" dogma within which I had been trained and to push material to its limits in order to express my ideas.  This led to my current multi-media way of working in which clay, plaster, fibre-glass, wood, paper, fabrics, paint or whatever seems appropriate are all pressed into service to create my small-scale set pieces.

My attempt to achieve a high degree of naturalism with my painted figures had an interesting side effect.  Because of their small size they were more "doll-like" than truly realistic.  However, dolls and puppets have their own strange intensity, both attractive and repellent.  They can be both charming and sinister, and often carry a dream-like quality.  I realised they transcended the mere representation of people and offered tempting possibilities to produce images of archetypal and symbolic significance.

When I started to enclose my constructions behind glass (initially for the prosaic reason of keeping them clean) I discovered that these qualities were enhanced - and this, coupled with my use of mirrors (I had always been fascinated by repeating images, self-reference, etc)  produced absorbing and intriguing situations, and endless vistas which seem to draw the viewer into my personal world of dream and fantasy.

Whereas, unlike many currently fashionable artists, it is not my intention to shock, I have to concede that visitors are occasionally challenged by some of my imagery.  Although my work is best characterised as "fantasy", it is essentially based on human experience, and while my subject matter may touch on myths, fairy stories, legends and the like, I think it is often shot through with psychological insights relevant to all.  

I hope you will have found it so.

Peter Hand

March 2004