Holly Ryan Sculpture
“Abstract notions of beauty and femininity.” – Holly Ryan
Picking up the chisel to hand-carve abstract faces and the expressive elegance of the female form, Holly began sculpting as a functional way to display her jewellery designs at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. Since then, sculpting has evolved as an important part of the artist’s creative practice and one that continually informs her jewellery collections.
Describing these art forms, Holly says that sculpting is akin to jewellery making, just on a much grander scale. Both are handcrafted, both are inspired by the canon of art history, and both reflect the artist’s passion for sustainability – incorporating recycled or found materials into the finished product.
As a natural extension of her creative practice with jewellery, Holly’s sculptures allow her to meditate on themes of modern femininity, artisanship and the wabi sabi notion of finding beauty in imperfection.
Holly’s recent exhibitions include, 'On Self Respect' Jerico Contemporary, 2020, 'Exhale' Jerico Contemporary, 2019, 'A Carved Revelation' Jerico Contemporary, 2018 and 'Christiane Spangsberg & Holly Ryan' Jerico Contemporary Booth, Sydney Contemporary, 2018.
You can view her current available works here.
ON SELF RESPECT
Holly Ryan debuted her third solo sculpture show at Jerico Contemporary Gallery in December 2020. Titled ‘On Self Respect’ this collection melds Holly’s creative realms and sees the artist introduce beautiful new materials and techniques. Incorporating bronze for the first time, this series marries Holly’s longstanding practice as a goldsmith and her artistic sculptural practice to date.
“There is something quite beautiful about the process of working with bronze,” she elaborates, “because it forces you to slow down and enjoy the lengthy and physical process of bringing these pieces to life.”
Bronze is the core alchemical element of this exhibition and it is rendered in high shine as well as textured finishes, with varied patinas. “Bronze has a beautiful weightiness to it,” the artist says. “It is solid and designed to last forever.”
Throughout ‘On Self Respect’ the golden appeal of this metal is complemented by the warmth of natural timber. “Sustainability is incredibly important to me,” Holly explains. “So I have worked with recycled hardwoods for this show – all of which have a shou sugi ban finish.”
Shou sugi ban (焼杉板) describes the Japanese art of preserving and finishing wood using fire and it lends a charred effect that sets a dramatic backdrop for the artist’s golden bronze works.
The use of wood is something that Holly has just begun to introduce in her jewellery making, while themes of stacking, asymmetry, and revered totems also extend throughout both of the artist’s creative practices.
“For this exhibition I have explored the idea of sculpture as a sacred object,” Holly says. “The totemic nature of these sculptural forms is not so dissimilar from the talismans I create in my jewellery practice. These works are just future heirlooms for the home, rather than the body.”
In contrast to the figures, the totems evoke silhouettes from the artist’s eponymous jewellery line, where shape, line and form are brought to the fore. With this relationship in mind, the collection also includes seven limited edition torso necklaces handmade by the artist.
See Holly Ryan’s latest available works here. And for all sales enquiries, please email email@example.com
Holly also works on a commission basis, for one-off bespoke sculptures for her clients. So if there is a work that you like that has already been sold, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your options.
BEHIND THE SCENES
the bronze making process
Holly works with a vast array of materials such as; sandstone, limestone, hebel, various hardwoods and softwoods, bronze, sterling silver and solid gold. With each material being unique, Holly uses a vast array of tools, practices and techniques to finish her pieces. This ranges from intricate hand carving through to yielding an angle grinder to carve, shape and form the materials.
With every design comes different requirements, processes and technique. These often necessitate the use of new tools and materials to achieve the vision, all these skills are part and parcel of the artist’s ever evolving arsenal.
Holly’s latest work’s have incorporated bronze for the first time. The bronze sculpting process is labour intensive, arduous and - almost always - time-consuming.
The first step in creating a bronze sculpture requires moulding and carving plasticine and wax ‘maquettes’. These maquettes allow the artist to further refine the design or even explore new creative ideas.
Once finished the maquettes are attached to a wax tree and immersed in a high density clay mixture. After the mixture has set, it is fired in a kiln, melting the internal wax and leaving behind a mould strong enough to endure the molten temperatures of the bronze pour.
Following the bronze pour is the most challenging component of the design; cleaning up and polishing the bronze. The initial bronze figures are course, with varying textures and imperfections. Many of these imperfections are an inherent in the process of casting molten bronze. The bubbles and grooves occur naturally in the casting process.
To refine these figures Holly must use sandpaper, dremels, files and saws to smooth these imperfections and create the high-sheen finish that showcases the beauty of the weightiness of bronze.
After the pieces have been shaped into their finished form, they are then polished, waxed and fired. This creates a glossy, timeless finish that allows the bronze to maintain its lustre and develop a lighter and more gradual patina.
To complement the smooth form of the bronze figures, Holly has incorporated recycled timber bases with a shou sugi ban finish. The Japanese art of shou sugi ban preserves and finishes wood using fire. Each base - once carved - is fired, sanded and washed multiple times to ensure an even treatment.
As with the bronzes, the wood is then coated in wax to both finish its preservation and add a subtle lustre to the timber’s grain. Once finished the bronze and timber components are married together. While both exhibiting beauty in their individual form, together they create a stark contrast, that allow each material to complement the other’s unique textures.
The final sculptures, which take a minimum of two to three months to create exhibit a harmony of natural materials, forms and tones. Each one unique in its composition, story and design.