The art of emotion: exhibiting the human condition through sculpture

As a traditional artist stuck in a post-Modern art world, I spend way too much time debating how to translate classical technique and romance into modern media. By ‘modern media’, I’m referring to the materials available for artists now. After all, I’m not Michaelangelo and this isn’t the Renaissance. Marble isn’t readily available at my local art store, the last time I checked; but post-industrial materials are in abundance!

Here are some incredible works, past and present, that show how artists have adapted to an ever changing landscape without compromising on beauty, technique, or message.1

‘Hooded Sorrow’ sculpture, Verano Cemetary, Rome, Italy [image source]

2Emotional Chain Link Sculptures by Young-Deok Seo [image source]

One of the most poignant of human experiences is sorrow. Both the classical artist (who is unknown) and Seo’s works above exemplify it flawlessly. Whats shocking is the numerous differences in the visual and material elements of each piece. One is a completely obscured figure, literally enrobed in its sadness. The stone lends itself well to this type of depiction. The other is the incomplete, brittle form of a bare human body, like a raw nerve. The multiple unit chain links create a visual expression of the figure’s erosion of spirit.3

The Cathedral by Auguste Rodin [image source]

4Heartfelt by Nathan Sawaya [image source]

Like sorrow, love is another strong human emotion that artists will forever seek to capture. Rodin’s ‘The Cathedral’ is one of the most sensory sculptures I’ve ever viewed. The hands, barely touching, express the tenderness and love between the beings they belong to. It is a motion that is barely visible, and yet it speaks volumes. Sawaya’s ‘Heartfelt’, on the other hand, hits you like a flash fire. The figure’s frozen gesture is a symbolic description of vulnerability and unrequited love. Who would have thought that a mass made, industrial material like Lego’s could be used to describe such a sensitive subject!

Like art, wise words are timeless. I think Leonardo Da Vinci summed it up when he said “A good painter has two main objects to paint; man and the intention of his soul. The former is easy, the latter hard as he has to represent it by the attitude and movement of the limbs.” Whether a painter, sculpture, or photographer, all artists understand this calling.