I am excited to show the first images from a recent collaboration with fellow artist Jason deCaires Taylor. I designed and sculpted the four Shire horses with oil-pump heads for Jason’s installation The Rising Tide currently installed on the Southbank of the Thames, right outside the MI6 building (for all you James Bond and secretive intelligence agency fans out there).
The piece is a powerful commentary on man’s relationship with the environment. Throughout the day the sculptures are submerged and revealed as the tide cycle waxes and wanes. As a long-time scuba diver I am delighted by Jason’s epic underwater works, so it was a pleasure collaborating with him on this piece.
My work on the piece involved the design and digital sculpting of the 18-hand tall Shire horses. Interestingly, over the past few years I have sculpted quite a few horses. First my centaur, then work on Mark Wallinger’s White Horse (also installed in London), followed by the horses for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, and now these petrochemical Shires.
Nearly high tide. image © Jason deCaires Taylor
As most regular visitors here know, my design process is almost entirely digital these days (save a bunch of preliminary drawing and sketching). Once I complete a sculpture, it can be fabricated using various methods including 3d printing, milling, molding and casting. These horses proceeded along this route but with the eventual goal being enormous concrete horses with life-cast concrete riders.
The plan was to create four horses in total, but with two different designs for the horse heads – one with its head up and one with its head down. In order to optimize costs and the production process for an already tight schedule it was decided that the horses would share the same body, varying only in the position of the neck and the style of head. This ‘body reuse’, along with structural requirements for reinforcing the legs with steel, presented the biggest challenges in the design phase. Beyond this though, the sculpting proceeded quickly and smoothly in ZBrush. Once the final designs were approved, all the data was handed over to the fabrication house (FBFX) to start machining the horses from polystyrene in advance of molding and casting in concrete. Find images from this process below.
final digital sculptures, showing the body reuse
Concurrently, the riders were skillfully life-cast by Jason in his studio in Lanzarote, and have incredible detail. After the horses were cast the riders were transported to London, mounted and the piece installed by barge & crane (no small feat in itself). In the end I was delighted with the look of the final piece. Yes, there was a bit of detail lost on the horses during fabrication, but the overall effect is powerful and I hope the piece will have a home on the shores of the Thames for many years to come. Congratulations to Jason and everyone else involved in bringing the project to life!