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Ode to Art: 8 Stunning, Surreal Sculptures from around the World Part 1

Two of the sculptures at the waterfront in Marseille by French artist Bruno Catalano. Image Credit: Bruno Catalano
Two of the sculptures at the waterfront in Marseille by French artist Bruno Catalano. Image Credit: Bruno Catalano

 

THIS WEEK, OUR ODE TO ART IS IN THE FORM OF SCULPTURES. Yes indeed. Sculptures, as you would know, are a branch of visual arts that operates in 3D and began as far back as the ancient times when cultures carved figures ─ mostly out of wood or stone ─ to personify religious edicts, idols or mythology. Some of the sculptures we are examining today are of course new wave modernist art and are no longer reflect lores or religion. Rather, they make thought-provoking social statements about our current state of being ─ some good, some bad. Some of the sculptures highlighted here go back several decades but still stand the test of time as some of the greatest expressions ever born out of the creative mind. Here are the first 8 of most stunning, most surreal and most thought-provoking and sometimes funny sculptures ever created in our lifetime.

1 Les Voyageurs, Marseilles, France by Bruno Catalano

Les Voyageurs (travellers) is a series of surrealist sculptures by French artist Bruno Catalano. As you can see, the sculptures all carry bags, as if travelling, and have huge missing parts. The parts seem disconnected yet are held up seemingly by nothing. Catalano explains his evocative art in an interview with The Daily Mail.

“I have travelled a lot and I left Morocco when I was 12 years old. I felt that a part of me was gone and will never come back. From years of being a sailor, I was always leaving different countries and places each time and it’s a process that we all go through. I feel like this occurs several times during life and of course everyone has missing pieces in his or her life that he won’t find again. So the meaning can be different for everyone, but to me the sculptures represent a world citizen.”

Here’s what they look like from behind. More of these enigmatic sculpture can be seen on brunocatalano.com http://brunocatalano.com/
Here’s what they look like from behind. More of these enigmatic sculpture can be seen on brunocatalano.com

 

A dozen of these sculptures were installed during the month of September in the streets of Marseille to celebrate its position as the 2013 European Capital of Culture. This beautiful series of sculptures questions us because of its meaning but also because of its technique, and evokes memories and things that every traveller inevitably leaves behind…like parts of themselves. (source info: ufunk.net)

Here is the full picture of the life-size sculptures presented at the port of Marseilles.
Here is the full picture of the life-size sculptures presented at the port of Marseilles.

2 Salmon Sculpture, (also called Transcendence) Portland, Oregon, USA

A fish through the wall! (Image credits: Ava Hirschsohn)
A fish through the wall! (Image credits: Ava Hirschsohn)

 

Transcendence is an outdoor sculpture by Keith Jellum. located in Portland, Oregon, United States. It depicts a fish flying through the brickwork above Southpark Seafood at the northwestern corner of Southwest Salmon Street and Southwest Park Avenue in Downtown Portland. The sculpture measures 11 feet (3.4 m) long and is made of hand forged and welded bronze. Seattle Post-Intelligencer said of the sculpture and its relation to the city: “There is much in the way of art there and one cannot get a bad coffee, beer or glass of wine there. People there are friendly and not above being whimsical, perhaps this is why Keith Jellum’s installation found a home in Portland?

Where is that fish swimmin’? Right through the wall of Southpark Seafood Grill in Downtown Portland. But of course! (Pic by MO Stevens/ Wikipedia Creative Commons)
Where is that fish swimmin’? Right through the wall of Southpark Seafood Grill in Downtown Portland. But of course! (Pic by MO Stevens/ Wikipedia Creative Commons)

3 People Of The River by Chong Fah Cheong, Singapore

This joyful sculpture of boys jumping into the river is also called First Generation. Image credits: gaartu.livejournal.com
This joyful sculpture of boys jumping into the river is also called First Generation. Image credits: gaartu.livejournal.com

 

This wonderful sculpture is called First Generation and was created by Chong Fah Cheong. First Generation was unveiled on December 31st 2000 and depicts a group of boys jumping into the Singapore River near the Fullerton Hotel. It was created as part of a series of sculptures by various sculptors, in the Open Air Interpretative Centre project by the Singapore Tourism Board.

Chong Fah Cheong is a Singaporean sculptor known for many public sculptures in Singapore. Though he worked in a variety of styles from abstract to figurative, his name is identified with a series of figurative sculptures depicting the life of people living and working along the Singapore River. (Info from: premier-propertysearch.co.uk)

Here’s another look from the front. Watch the boys’ expressions.  (Pic from i0.wp.com/ aswesawit.com)
Here’s another look from the front. Watch the boys’ expressions. (Pic from i0.wp.com/ aswesawit.com)

4 The Shoes On The Danube Bank by Can Togay & Gyula Pauer, Budapest, Hungary

Erected on 16 April 2005, the composition titled 'Shoes on the Danube Bank' gives remembrance to the 3,500 people, 800 of them Jews, who were shot into the Danube during the time of the Arrow Cross terror. The sculptor created 60 pairs of period-appropriate shoes out of iron. (Pic from artstoendgenocide.org)
Erected on 16 April 2005, the composition titled ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ gives remembrance to the 3,500 people, 800 of them Jews, who were shot into the Danube during the time of the Arrow Cross terror. The sculptor created 60 pairs of period-appropriate shoes out of iron. (Pic from artstoendgenocide.org)

 

The Memorial plague. Pic by Tamas Szabo at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
The Memorial plague. Pic by Tamas Szabo at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a poignant and moving memorial in Budapest, Hungary. Conceived by film director Can Togay, he created it on the east bank of the Danube River with sculptor Gyula Pauer to honour the people (mainly Budapest Jews) who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross  militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank. (Source: wikipedia)

5 Nelson Mandela by Marco Cianfanelli, Howick, South Africa

Mandela sculpture by artist Marco Cianfanelli at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site, KZN, South Africa. (Image by Marco Cianfanelli)
Mandela sculpture by artist Marco Cianfanelli at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site, KZN, South Africa. (Image by Marco Cianfanelli)

 

Just outside Howick, some 56 miles south of Durban, South Africa, on the R102 highway, Nelson Mandela was put in handcuffs and led away to be incarcerated for the next 27 years on Robben Island. It was August 1962, and after his arrest by apartheid security forces, Mandela was charged with treason and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Amazingly, the sculpture cannot be appreciated as Mandela’s face when viewed from the side.
Amazingly, the sculpture cannot be appreciated as Mandela’s face when viewed from the side. Clever, isn’t it?

After a campaign to free him went worldwide, he became a symbol of the fight for equality in South Africa. After his release he led his country as President, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and became an international statesman welcomed around the world. He died in 2013, aged 95, and his birthday, 18 July, is now internationally celebrated as ‘Mandela Day’.

It was back at that spot where his arrest took place, between farmland that once was roamed by the Zulus, that Mandela was honoured by the unveiling of this striking sculpture on 5 August, 2012, exactly 50 years later.

Created by Marco Cianfanelli, the work is made from 50 steel charcoal columns that create Mandela’s head when viewed from a certain angle.

Said Cianfanelli:

“The front of the sculpture is a portrait of Mandela, it has vertical bars which represent his imprisonment. When you walk through the structure it’s radiates like a burst of light, which symbolises the political uprising of many people and solidarity.”

(Excerpted from Conde Nast Traveller: cntraveller.com/news/2012/august/nelson-mandela-sculpture-tourist-guide)

 

6 De Vaartkapoen, by Tom Frantzen Brussels, Belgium

An “anti-establishment, Let’s-topple-the-authority-figure” Belgium humour here in this sculpture.
An “anti-establishment, Let’s-topple-the-authority-figure” Belgium humour here in this sculpture.

 

De Vaartkapoen” by Tom Frantzen was installed in 1985, in Molenbeek, in front of the building of the Communauté Française.

Working on an imposed subject, that of “De Vaartkapoen”, which is the name given to the people who were born in Molenbeek (literally “de vaart” means “the canal” and “kapoen” means cheeky), Tom Frantzen stages a little scene on two levels: the level of the sewers (which lead into the canal) and the level of the pavement (see the lamppost, the cobblestones and the manhole cover). Low down, a young rebel, the Vaartkapoen, reminiscent of a jack-in-the-box, purposely trips over a policeman higher up, thus overthrowing his authority.

With this statue, the artist makes an implied reference to cartoonist Hergé (who is mostly famous for being the creator of Tintin, and shared the same “zwanze” as Frantzen) by changing the officer’s roll number from 22 (22 being a pun, because of the French expression “vingt-deux, v’là les flics”= “watch out, here come the cops”) to 15 (“Officer 15” was another of Hergé’s famous characters).
In a snapshot-like motion, the two characters gracefully turn into bronze and remain so forever, leaving the rest of the scene to our imagination… which is how the rebellious Brussels artist gets passers-by to share a joke with him. (Info sourced from: tomfrantzen.be)

7 Spider or Maman, by Louis Bourgeois in the Tate Modern, London, UK

The name of the spider series is Maman, or so it’s called. It’s one out of a series of spiders made in the 1990s. The Maman series is the largest group of spider sculptures ever made by Bourgeois. (Pic by Alf Gillman)
The name of the spider series is Maman, or so it’s called. It’s one out of a series of spiders made in the 1990s. The Maman series is the largest group of spider sculptures ever made by Bourgeois. (Pic by Alf Gillman)

 

Maman (1999) is a bronze, stainless steel, and marble sculpture by the artist Louise Bourgeois. The sculpture, which depicts a spider, is among the world’s largest, it stands over 30 ft high and over 33 ft wide (927 x 891 x 1024 cm). It includes a sac containing 26 marble eggs and its abdomen and thorax are made of ribbed bronze. The title is the familiar French word for Mother. According to The Guardian, Bourgeois is reported to have said, “The spider is an ode to my mother”.

The sculpture was created in 1999 by Bourgeois as a part of her inaugural commission of The Unilever Series (2000), in the Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern, a modern art gallery located in London, This original was created in steel, with an edition of six subsequent castings in bronze. (Excerpted from  wikipedia.org/wiki/Maman_(sculpture)

Bourgeois loves spiders. For those of you who love arachnids too, here is the eight-legger again. (pic by Felix Clay for the Guardian)
Bourgeois loves spiders. For those of you who love arachnids too, here is the eight-legger again. (pic by Felix Clay for the Guardian)

 

8 Hippo Sculptures in Hippo Square, Taipei Zoo, Taiwan

Simple yet ingenious sculptures of “submerged into concrete hippopotami” in the Taipei Zoo. (Image credits: Patche99z)
Simple yet ingenious sculptures of “submerged into concrete hippopotami” in the Taipei Zoo. (Image credits: Patche99z)

 

Hippo Square at Taipei Zoo was recently named to the list of the world’s 25 most creative statues and sculptures by Boredpanda, a U.S.-based visual art and design website. Comprising a pod of semisubmerged hippos at play, the square came in at No. 15 out of more than 160 submissions from around the globe. It was praised for possessing extraordinary and pictureworthy qualities by the website.

According to Taipei Zoo, photographs of the square were probably submitted by members of the public, highlighting the growing reputation of the facility at home and abroad.

The square is the brainchild of former zoo Director Chen Pao-chung, who came up with the concept while looking for ways to complement the African Animal Area. After consulting with employees and designers, Chen greenlighted the square and it went on to become one of the facility’s signature nonliving attractions. (Excerpted from Taiwan Today)

 

Click: Ode to Art: Another 8 Stunning, Surreal Sculptures from around the World Part 2

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