Contemporary statues: The views of three female artists

22 April 2020

These days, the word statue evokes monumental and solemn sculptures found in public squares, immobile celebration of heroes whose names are often mostly unknown. However, sculpting remains a very alive way of creation, engaged in its time, as illustrated by the work of three of the gallery’s sculptresses.

Contemporary statues: What are we talking about?

To start off, some semantics! This question is frequently asked of us: What’s the difference between a statue and a sculpture? Statues are a category of sculpture that has specific characteristics: it is a three-dimensional work carved or moulded of a whole isolated figure (a person or an animal).  Statues are typically made with durable materials such as: stone, wood or metal. The statue size is approximately life size, however there are very small statues, known as statuettes, or if much larger: colossal statues or colossi.

Historically, the statues represented important figures in society, the gods or sacred animals with a kind of public function. In contemporary art, the artworks chosen as public art are sculptures or installations that are less restrictive than statues in regard to the subject or the material.

However, we would like to present three female artists’ sculptures whose characteristics are in common with contemporary statues.

Cécile Raynal’s contemporary statues

Cécile Raynal's contemporary sculptures are the results of meetings and exchanges between her and her models, which often take place during an artistic residency. The portraits, busts or whole figures are then finished by the artist in her studio, where they are often enhanced with elements that introduce a narrative angle.

Certain figures by Cécile Raynal are full-length portraits and therefore can be considered as contemporary statues. Their size can even approach the actual size of the model. The narration prompted by the sculpture is always linked in one way or another to the person who inspired it, and she often gives the work a title that evokes this tie, or the model's first name.

Nevertheless, her creative work frees the artworks from their models and implies that they are sculptures rather than statues. So much more so than solemn and silent portraits, these contemporary sculptures have real emotional power and captures the viewer’s imagination.



Vénus et caetera, Cécile Raynal


Marine de Soos: A travel inspired work

The French sculptress, Marine de Soos, draws her inspiration from her travels to Africa and the Orient; scenes of daily life, people and animals that she was able to observe during these trips. At the creative process base, there are those memories, sensations and emotions that she wishes to convey and communicate to her audience.

With the exception of certain busts, Marine de Soos works mostly depict adolescents or adults in motion: walking, playing or driving an animal. These contemporary statues immerse us into a universe that is both distant and ‘exotic’ and into day to day life that anyone could have seen and experienced: a Hindu monk in prayer, fishermen on their boat, parents playing with their children or even a shepherd and his goats.

The relationship at the same time between distance and proximity that Marine de Soos’s sculptures are capable of establishing with a viewer adds to the poeticness they exude. Some contemporary statues are made life size; others are more like statuettes due to their smaller dimensions. These statues, which seem to freeze furtive moments, are all made of bronze, a durable material.



Woman with a lantern, Marine de Soos


Chésade: When the animal takes over statuary

While the figures of Cécile Raynal and Marine de Soos are mainly centred on the human form, the French artist Chésade focuses on the animal world. Her main inspiration is the sea, which she was able to observe closely during her Mediterranean cruises.

Chésade’s contemporary animal statues, at first glance, seem very similar to the real animals they are inspired from, they are actually the result of an artistic endeavour which begins with an almost ‘anatomical’ observation of nature. Her work continues through a sketching phase, where the artist reworks the animal's body by highlighting a defining trait or by adding elements from her imagination.

As an example, the sculpture ‘Assembly Bear’, shows a ‘deconstructed’ animal, with the desire to grasp more than just the animal’s external shape. The piece conveys aspects of strength and power that we symbolically attribute to a bear. As with Marine de Soos, the preferred material for her contemporary statues is bronze.



Assembly Bear, Chésade