Another month has passed and another Sculpture 30 artist……… through-out May we celebrated and got to know Russ Coleman as our May Sculpture 30 artist of the Month.
Russ is one of those artists that can see creativity in everything and works across a wide range of mediums; from concrete to stone, from illigraphy to abstract drawing, from performance to sculpture. He’s a true maker and creator (and avid tea drinker!).
The Late Shows 2016
“I make things for my own amusement and curiosity; my mum said I used to make a mess and my wife says that I still do.” – Russ Coleman
During the course of May, Russ led a workshop providing the very unique opportunity to carve letters into stone, within Gateshead’s historical St Mary’s Heritage Centre taking inspiration from the variety of surrounding stone work and lettering.
Russ Coleman Stone Letter Carving May 2016
Russ also was a hugely popular feature of our Late Shows offering this year at St Mary’s Heritage Centre. The culture crawl weekend across NewcastleGateshead is on to its 10th birthday, this year and we knew we wanted to do something unique and a bit different; hence asking Russ to lead on a drop in session.
Over 80 people on the evening had a go using a variety of instruments making their own marks on to stone.
The Late Shows 2016
I caught up with Russ just after the Late Show’s weekend as I wanted to find out more about his work and practice…..
Would you be able to tell me a little bit about yourself and your practice?
I wish that I could say that I make wondrous and diverse artworks for complicated and clever reasons. But in truth I am just trying to make sense of my life and experiences.
At heart I am still the 8 year old boy wanting to show you what he has discovered outside in the yard.
What got you into working with concrete and stone carving?
The 8 year old boy grew up and left school. In 1980, I signed up for a city and guilds course in bricklaying and construction at the local technical collage as well as starting an apprenticeship with my father as a monumental mason. I was also heavily into drama performing with the local youth theatre.
I learnt over the next 9 years how to build a house, how to carve letters in stone and how to create a theatrical experience.
I take all these skills forward into the work I make. I see no hierarchy of materials; it’s all star dust having gone through different processes. I do like hard stones for the fact that they may hold a form for centuries more than most materials. I like concrete for its property of being temporarily a powder, then a liquid and then a solid.
Your experience being involved in St Mary’s Late Shows?
I enjoyed both the Late Shows drop in sessions and the letter carving sessions. It is good to demonstrate a skill and the reasons behind certain moves or processes. It concentrates the mind and helps me focus on things that I take for granted, such as being able to hold a hammer and chisel without skinning my knuckles all the time (although this still happens regularly). People were genuinely keen to learn and a few were surprisingly adept.
Have you got a favourite project so far? I can see you’ve done such a diverse range of stuff, even part of a mini golf range (love mini golf!)
It was a full Nine hole course called Ocean Drive and had a rock pool underwater theme sited on the sea front at Filey. It was fun to make but I should have taken part payment as a percentage of takings as it was very popular and paid for itself within one season.
I have no particular favourites as I like different works for different reasons.
I like the bronze plaques on the Stone Jetty in Morecambe. They really stretched my ability, a lot of fine carving in plaster that needed to be fairly exact. There is a surprising difference between a Plaice a Dab and a Flounder and I couldn’t use colour to differentiate them so it was all in the form and the surface detail.
The New Hartley memorial path was a great project because of the subject and the depth of feeling that all the people involved in the project showed in its creation.
I always get enthusiastic about the next project; it’s always a discovery and a journey into the unknown.
Tell me a little bit about Cop Crag composition?
This was one of several pieces that I carved for the Stone Academy based at the Bowes museum in 2013 Cop Crag is the name of the quarry where the stone comes from it is just north of Hexham. It has an unusual colour for a sandstone you rarely get a brown almost honey colour stone mixed with red and orange tones, they’re nearly always one or the other.
The Composition element grew out of the use of several pieces of stone at the same time. I started carving about 6 pieces using the various different makings or shapes of the sawn offcuts as starting points. I would place one on top of the other and follow lines through both pieces or carry forms over two items. It became a rhythmic dialogue between the stone and my eyes and hands. I settled on a final composition towards the end of the 3 day session.
Cop Crag Composition – Russ Coleman
Because it was carved at speed without paying too much attention to what it actually was, I realised in retrospect that it contains all the movements, gestures shapes and forms that are thrown up by letter cutting and construction.
What’s the future hold?
I have been working on some new pieces that bring all the elements of my interests together. They spring from that sense of wonder I mentioned earlier and the intent is to present the things I enjoy, they are a kind of heavy duty nature table made by a 52 year old boy
Favourite piece of Gateshead Sculpture?
Windy Nook. It holds fond memories for me and was made by an old tutor of mine. I like the fact that it has become part of the landscape and is thought of as being there for a lot longer that it has been.
The New Hartley Memorial Pathway – Russ Coleman
So another month and another Sculpture 30 artist….however, our engagement with Russ Coleman is not quite finished yet. He is facilitating two interconnected fantastic ‘Abstract Expressionism Drawing Workshops’ on Wednesday 10th August and Wednesday 14th September, 6pm- 8pm.
If like me, you love drawing, but not traditionally good at it, this is YOUR opportunity to get creative with Russ; learn and experiment with a variety of mark making and drawing techniques. He will guide you and give you new ways to approach drawing with different medias to construct your abstract masterpiece.
For both sessions it is £15 and you can book your place now!
See you soon fellow Culture Vultures…..