A few years ago I encountered the above sculpture by Paul Smith at an art fair. It connected with me in a way I didn’t expect. I’ve been having dreams about lions for many years, and in each of the dreams the lions shift constantly between being threatening and protective. It resulted in me writing a poem that will soon be published in an anthology from Avalanche Books.
Paul’s sculpture helped me make sense of the complex emotions that sprung from my lion dreams. “My main driving force in my work is my interest in the place where animals and humans meet,” he says. “Sometimes comforting, at other times strange and uncertain…”
His sculptures reveal the truth of a relationship’s strength being entwined with its participants’ willingness to offer up their vulnerability.
Paul’s work often depicts couples where one is human, and the other a bear, wolf or a lion. and frequently he shows one figure seemingly giving themselves over to another. It looks powerfully trustful – the essence of letting go, which is something I think we all aspire to on some level. We all want to rest in another’s arms, don’t we? Quite simply, at ease.
Paul also explores mythology through his work, translating fantastical ideas into familiar forms. His figures, whether human or animal, are solid, friendly. It helps, perhaps, that his medium is clay – a material many of us play with when very small.
“I think I was born to be an artist,” Paul says. “My parents tell me that toys didn’t really interest me until I started playing with plasticine and Lego. Making an idea physical and real is really thrilling.”
At school art was Paul’s strongest subject, which led to him taking a fine art sculpture degree. “After leaving college I started to follow a career in social work, but, at the age of around thirty, I found employment as a sculptor/mould maker.”
After around ten years of this, Paul followed his creative desires and set up as a self-employed artist in 1998.
“I like the flexibility that my life has now, both creatively and that old chestnut, work/life balance,” he says. “When I first started my self employed life I chose ceramics as it was the most convenient and cost effective way to make sculpture. The immediacy of making a sculpture in clay and firing it is really pure.”
Influences on his current work include the writing of Angela Carter, “particularly her re-tellings of fairy tales in her collection of short stories The Bloody Chamber. It was the magical blurring of the divisions between the human and animal worlds in her stories that gave me the courage to go wherever my imagination dictated.”
Find more of Paul’s work and details of upcoming exhibitions at www.paulsmithsculptures.co.uk.
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