As you may know, the Majestic in its previous lives had been safeguarded by two beautiful statues – one that represents music and another that represents poetry. The Greek figures had been taken down from the building during its redevelopment to undergo their own transformation – a job that we called upon renowned artist Andrew Sinclair to take on.
Here’s what we had to say about this culturally significant project.
What was the brief and what did you think when it came through?
The brief was to create two 9ft figures and four urns to go on top of the Majestic. I was excited because this classical sculptural approach is exactly what I do. I’ve been in this field for 30 years, doing the strangest commissions that you can think of, from dragons through to classical pieces through to life-sized figures – it’s been a very interesting career.
What’s the typical process for this type of project?
When you’re making a sculpture of a person you use clay. You make a steel armature, you clad that armature in polystyrene so that you have a very light and strong core and then you clad that armature with clay, all to measurement.
The human body can be measured easily using Greek proportions and that’s what gives us our datum point – we’re not sculpting any old person, we’re sculpting, in fact, a God. That way we get beautiful proportions, and interestingly the general public never notice the ‘God’, they notice the human being.
We’ve got a definite process for creating the perfect figure and getting that lovely sense of movement and vitality into it at the same time.
Is that an industry process or is it specific to you?
It should be an industry process, but no, it’s unique and specific to us. We’re busy trying to teach that through the school we’ve created.
Can you tell me more about the school?
Of course – I feel I’ve been extremely lucky in my career, I started out on the shop floor so in effect I had the equivalent of an old-fashioned apprenticeship that lasted about seven years. I was working for a moulding and casting company and whilst there, more jobs came in that required different skills – sculptor clients needed enlargement work and big companies needed sculpture commissions and I found that I had quite a natural talent.
I developed all my workshop practices during that period and as my career developed and the contracts became more complex, my experience has given me a template that I use all the time. When my partner Diane & I set up The Sculpture School I had to analyse my sculpting methods and why they work in order to help the students understand the process. The system I’ve created is based on design, measurement and a good knowledge of anatomy, it’s not an emotional judgement or guesswork!
Because I’m constantly working to commission and I’m not technically a teacher, it puts me in the perfect position to actually teach professional sculpting skills. Everything I do is current industry practice – it’s not years and years out of date as tends to happen at a normal school or university.
Our school is now international, we run monthly 4-day workshops and we’re about to start an online teaching course which means we can reach out to the whole world and teach these important skills.
We’re getting students from as far away as Australia, South America and Canada because we’re the only modern figurative sculpture course in the world which is, admittedly amazing, but also a bit sad because it should be taught the world over.
You see sculptures go up in town centres and you think ‘oh my god, who on earth did that!’, so I want to make sure that our knowledge and expertise is passed onto the next generation.
Is it a difficult artform to teach?
I can’t teach people talent, but I can teach them process. What generally stops people from getting a good result is just not knowing how to do it.
Imagine I asked you for example to build a brick wall, I assume it wouldn’t go very well – so if you don’t know the tricks of the trade, it can be very difficult to do. But if you do know the tricks, it’s not difficult at all. It’s not some magic that comes from some sort of God-given talent – it’s simply knowledge that you can impart.
How good they become does depend on their natural talent.
So, back to the project, what’s been your favourite part?
That’s easy, it’s always the bit at the end when I’m doing the fine finishing work.
The cladding of the clay, the making of the armature, the putting on of the polystyrene, it’s all complex and there’s a lot of measurements and judgements involved, but when you’ve done all that and you’ve got to that final bit where it’s almost like you’re polishing the paintwork on a car that you’ve finished making, that’s what I enjoy the most – it’s that feeling of seeing it all come together.
But, as with anything, there’s always an element of luck involved – sometimes everything comes together beautifully and you produce something that’s undeniably genius, and then you’ll have three or four sculptures that are very good, but they’re not genius.
Get in touch
If you think your staff would be happy working in a cultural-haven like Leeds, get in touch with our agents Richard.Thornton@eu.jll.com of JLL or Eamon.firstname.lastname@example.org of Knight Frank to see how we can help you.