Known as silent predators of the night, owls possess the beguiling ability to swoop within inches of their prey undetected due to specialized feathers that make their flight almost completely inaudible. It’s no wonder that for millennia, the enigmatic creatures have represented wisdom, helpfulness, and prophecy in myths and folklore around the world. Lincolnshire-based artist Anthony Theakston has always been fascinated by birds and flight, and he summons the mystical beauty of the avians’ elegant wings and tender faces in ceramic and bronze.
Theakston prizes out the essence of each living being in a way that is neither purely abstract nor representational, transforming an inanimate hunk of plaster, ceramic, or bronze into a form poised to launch from its perch at any moment. “My work is as much an abstract sculpture or design that contains some spirit of life in general, and the bird form seems like a pure way to represent this to me,” he tells Colossal. “The barn owl has a particular place in my work, I think, partly because it has an obvious beauty but also because it in some way has a human quality to its facial characteristics and structure.”
To begin a new sculpture, the artist starts by discerning a mood that he wants to convey and searches for imagery that captures that feeling. After sketching loosely, he refines the idea into a formal design. “I am most happy with a simple, uncomplicated expression of the idea, and so much of my time is spent refining and altering every small detail until it seems to work perfectly,” he says. “I like to think of it as an equation which has been expressed in its simplest form.” Once the design is finalized, he sculpts the minimal lines of legs, heart-shaped heads, and beady eyes from a solid block of Herculite plaster and adds a variety of surface finishes to produce an array of patinas and patterns.
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