How Metal is Being Used in Contemporary Art?

Be it the rough-hewn sculptures of Alejandra Prieto made of iron pyrite or the sleek minimalism in the designs of Rana Begum using aluminum, metal and art have a long history. Artists and creators have forever reveled in the fabricating and manipulating metal objects .
Alejandra Prieto Pyrite convex mirror ( fool’s gold)

Be it the rough-hewn sculptures of Alejandra Prieto made of iron pyrite or the sleek minimalism in the designs of Rana Begum using aluminium, metal and art have a long history. Artists and creators have forever revelled in fabricating and manipulating metal objects into their personalized art form. Many of them even employ metal from discarded objects for their artwork too.

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Rana Begum, powder-coated galvanized steel Installation view. Photo: Jack Hems

For example, Alice Hope used aluminium ball chains and can tab for her large-scale and mesmerizing installations. Similarly, Paula Castillo employs industrial by-products to create her masterpieces. After creating the blueprint of her artwork, she welds the individual pieces. Kelsey Wishik and Carolina Sardi are known to use steel in their artwork in a variety of ways.

The list of artworks made using metal doesn’t stop there. Leila Khoury is famous for her industrial-looking artwork. Her creations mostly serve as enduring symbols for parts of Syria threatened or destroyed by war. The objects employed by Kerianne Quick come from items that people fleeing these troubled spots possess.

Alice Hope used aluminum ball chains and can tabs

Alice Hope. Untitled, 2014. Found nickel-plated box spring, anodized aluminium tabs and ball chain, 90 x 37 x 7 in (228.6 x 93.9 x 17.7 cm) | Image Courtesy: studio international

Using the undulating forms of artworks, Blanca Munoz investigates space and light. Serena Poretti, on the other hand, is renowned for her experiments with different metals, each possessing distinct properties. Charlotte Charbonnel employs ferrite fillings to ponder upon their beauty in magnetic fields. Beverly Penn uses botanically inspired artwork to memorialize the transient aspect of nature.

Castillo’s mountainous welded metal sculptures | Source: paulacastilloart

While talking of metal and art, one must not forget the creations of jewellers as they continue thinking outside the box. This includes Cheryl Eve Acosta’s oceanic forms as well as Lola Brooks’ dark yet fanciful pieces. Using her training as jeweller, Susie Ganch expresses her creativity in the form of large sculptures, retaining the elegance of ornamentation.

There are some creative personnel who enjoy the intersection of the masculine and feminine associations of metalwork. For example, Holly Laws uses wooden ironing boards that have been discarded. She tops them with bronze and copper and the end result is a piece of art that is sinister and threatening. Katherine Vetne, on the other hand, explores this arena with the use of crystal pitchers. She melts it down and coats it with silver nitrate. The best of all is Carolina Rieckhof Brommer’s wearable sculptures that present a paradox between a haven and prison.

Holly Laws' wooden ironing board, Three Eastern Blue Birds, 2017, steel, copper, mahogany, plywood pedestal, 50.5 x 60 x 28 in., collection of the artist | Image Credit: onlyinark

Based on everything mentioned so far, it’s no surprise that metal and contemporary art are indeed compatible. Let’s focus a little more on the advantages of the use of metal in the artwork.

1. Flexible Design Concepts: By flexibility, it is not to suggest that metal can be bent in and out. What it actually means is that metal décor can be employed in exterior as well as interior designs. This includes abstract and contemporary designs or futuristic and high-tech forms. You can’t rule out vintage, rustic, and Scandinavian. As a matter of fact, metal has proven to be compatible with a variety of colours and concepts. It can be adapted to suit the signature style of any artist who can think differently.

Ann Vrielinck’s elegant bronze sculptures

2. Durability and Adaptability: Metal is durable and adapts to any kind of situation and therefore ensures that your art sustains itself for decades. Compared to other objects, metal retains its newness. You can even change the color on its surface from time to time using simple spray paint. In case the metalwork needs to be placed outside, all you require is a waterproof layer coating. This will resist even the slightest chance of the artwork to rust.

Miami sculptor Carolina Sardi carved steel to create this art

3. Eco-friendly and Sustainable: As concerns for a sustainable environment keep rising, artists are increasingly decreasing the use of items made of synthetic and plastic. The focus is being shifted to organic materials such as wood and metal. These are more preferred over other items, especially in urban spaces. Plastic fails to provide what metal art can. You can create anything via recycling an item or using an already recycled item. Apart from being trendy and stylish, it also ensures that the ecology suffers less. Even the artists feel better as they opted for an eco-friendlier material.

Petronella Eriksson

Silver metal arts created from Petronella Eriksson's rings and her other jewellery

4. Customizable: Metal art is usually three dimensional, allowing you to incorporate your personal touch as well. It is advisable to not put heavy items of the artwork. However, you can employ colorful ribbons and streamers. Let’s assume you have created a map out of metal. You can put magnetic pins on all the spots that you have visited already. It’s artsy and fun.

Charlotte Charbonnel Metal art work

5. Uniqueness: Given the skill required to create a piece of metal art, these things are extremely unique and only made when there is some demand.

Kelsey Wishik, Sprout, 2014; Mild steel, 17 x 50 x 22 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist

You can, of course, look for them online through a simple google search. Additionally, a majority of these creators have custom designs for potential buyers. The latter get to pick the color and size of their own choice.

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