The Home Page

Chisel & Pen

International Culture, Sculpture, Script and Poetics
[now accepting submissions from sculptors only, all Countries welcome]
An online publicaton as well as an annual issue each January. Selected writings below will be featured.
Would you like to submit writings on sculpture, critique, essay or poetics? Would you like to submit a photo of your sculpture, large scale preferred.
What country are you from? INTERNATIONAL TALENT AND WORDS WELCOMED. Sculptors and writers/poets please represent your country here.
Open to subjects of sculpture, fine arts and literature/ poetics which are generally related to the 'arts' historically or contemporarily. Response articles/ essays welcomed where well thought out and articulated.

For sculpture and related articles submit to... Gilbert E Barrera, Publisher:

Article by Ryan McCourt, Sculptor
Submitted February 25, 2009


To some, the ongoing focus on Hindu iconography in my sculpture may
seem strange, coming, as it does, from a white atheist prairie boy
like myself.

As a human being, there is nothing within human culture that is alien.
To refuse to appreciate and learn from diverse sources of human
experience is to be wilfully ignorant.

As a sculptor, the whole of human history's artistic production --
indeed, all the physical objects, real and imagined -- is part of my
visual "culture." The Greeks are my culture, as surely as are the
Africans, as much as the Indians ... at least as much as the Albertans.

I don't "choose" what I'm inspired by, and it's impossible for me to
say for sure why I might be so inspired (or even that it's Hinduism,
per se, that is the effective inspiration).

There are many factors that influence the directions of my work, and
all may be active, consciously or unconsciously, at the same time.
However, I can say that I try to take advantage of whatever
inspiration comes my way, regardless of the source of the influence.

All the sculptures I've made in this series of works have focused on
Ganesha. On one hand, I'm particularly interested in the philosophical
concepts integral to Ganesha's mythology; and on the other, I
appreciate the possibilities for sculptural expression inherent in the
traditional elements of his physical form, as translated through my
medium and my process.

I've always been interested in different systems of religious and
philosophical thought. My intellectual appreciation of the concepts of
Hinduism stems mainly from recent study of the philosophy of Arthur
Schopenhauer, whose own work draws inspiration from Hindu thought.

As a sculptor, one can't help but admire the work of the Indian
masters of the Middle Ages and their artworks which, for me, rank
among the great sculptural achievements of human culture.

For centuries, Hindu tradition has transcended boundaries and
influenced philosophical ideas around the globe. Schopenhauer called
Hindu scriptures "the consolation of my life" and in them, found
precedent for much of his thinking. Speaking on "the openness of
taste," the art critic Clement Greenberg (like Arthur Schopenhauer, a
philosophical follower of Immanuel Kant), affirmed "that you look at
Hindu sculpture, say, in the same way, by and large, as you look at
contemporary art or the art of the old masters or any other kind of

The great thing about art (like philosophy, or science) is its
transcendence across such arbitrary boundaries of race or nation. I do
not choose what to be moved by; none of us do. I've seen many parts of
the world (four continents so far), studied various philosophies and
religions, looked at artworks from a variety of cultures in and out of
some of the worlds great museums, and here I am, living in Edmonton,
welding bits of scrap together to look like a pot-bellied man with an
elephant head.

Is there any easy explanation?

Among the most influential collections of Hindu sculpture that I've
seen are the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Asian Art
Museum in San Francisco, and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. The
Glenbow is, perhaps surprisingly, home to an extraordinary collection
of Asian art. According to its web-site, the Many Faces, Many Paths
collection "comprises over 80 world-class religious sculptures from
Asia, some of which are on loan from Bumper Development Corporation
Ltd. of Calgary; some have already been gifted by the corporation."

Alongside the artworks in the gallery, there hangs a brilliant
statement from Robert Borden, "A message from the collector: The
gallery you are entering contains an exhibit of objects that are works
of art, not just cultural artifacts. For those of you who wish to view
it as an ethnological exhibit or as a religious experience,
information is provided alongside each object and you may seek to
extend your knowledge through further study.

"However, in the eyes of this collector, the exhibit is first and
foremost, one of art. These beautiful objects demonstrate and create
an awareness of line and form that would satisfy any art lover. Here
you will find shapes, masses, colours, designs, shadows, grace, and
beauty as magnificent as that of any art ever produced by human beings
of any culture.

"And it is only when we understand and appreciate the creative ability
of artists of many cultures that we can fully appreciate the art of
our own culture.

"Enjoy the exhibit at your leisure. Enjoy the art. Enjoy the peace.
Enjoy the thoughts of artists as they captured and expressed the joys
of life. Come back often and stay awhile."

This sums up the attitude of the true aesthete. I couldn't have said
it better myself.

Ryan McCourt, Edmonton

[Image: "Destroyer of Obstacles", painted steel, 2006, Ryan McCourt]

Ryan McCourt Sculpture


Chisel & Pen (c) 2008; Copyrights and Trademarks of Gilbert E Barrera