Richard J. Gunston
Introduction to an Artist
Born in Humansdorp, a small town outside Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa; I developed a keen interest in wildlife from an early age. I had a passion for Nature and a yearning to plant seeds to then see it unfurl in all its variety and splendour. I loved to fill scrap books with pictures of wildlife, always marvelling at the uniqueness of the world around us.
Studies in the field of Horticulture led to a close proximity to plants and the beauty they hold, and I was entrusted with the management of large estates. Over the last 12 years, I’ve been privileged to be part of a project to create an estate garden as part of a historical National Monument Manor in the Cape to rival other well-known places. This ambitious undertaking did not only challenge my creativity; it also gave me the opportunity to leave a small legacy behind . . . something beautiful that will bring great joy to all those who see and experience it on their chosen paths through life.
Through design, I always tried to emulate nature and to re-create – although never to improve upon it as I do not believe that nature can be improved. It is eternally perfect, uniquely suited to its given environment, and adaptable to the extreme. The concept of time is completely different to plants and animals alike – some living short lives; others thousands of years – an aspect that begs understanding, that I am still to decipher. With seeing the beauty comes the reality of perceiving the sadness. Feeling the joy of touch comes with the heartache of loss. Celebrating the beauty of the moment is imperative as it is fleeting . . . all the more reason to capture it through sculpture.
My years in the field have led me to look beyond the obvious and to see the unique and exceptional beauty all around us . . . and that so few are even aware of.
The fragrance of grass after newly fallen rain and the richness of that earthy odour that assaults the senses encapsulates all that I am and want to be. Seeing Nature at its most perfect and re-creating it through sculpture to be immortalised in bronze – this is the most rewarding aspect of my life.
Being very analytical, meticulous and systematic, I found three-dimensional visualisation quite easy. My approach as an artist is to take many pictures of a subject, borrow aspects from those pictures, and form an image in my mind – this I then translate into clay.
I am often asked whether I do two-dimensional drawings first to plan a piece – but I do not. I merely conceptualise, visualise and transform into clay. While I make many changes during and along the creative process itself, the end product must be to my absolute satisfaction. My biggest endeavour is to capture the subject’s soul; an emotional moment each time. And that the face reflects life with a glint of personality in the eyes! While this is often very difficult to capture in clay, patience and an unwavering determination to express that inner vision eventually develops the skill and brings the desired result.
It gives me great pleasure to create and see a piece through to completion and to be rewarded by the desire of others to share what has been created by wishing to own it. It is very hard to part with any sculpture I created as it is part of my soul. Sculpting can never be about commercialism, the exchange of money or the mass production of items that hold no worth. It is not about the “monetary return” but rather the “investment in the soul”, the joy and inspiration that it brings. I trust and hope that you share my vision and find endless joy in what I do.
The spirit and emotion within the subject –
a reflection of love, caring and character –
are vital to the success of the piece.
My studio in my home is my most loved part of the house. It is internally reflective of a game lodge with an abundance of wildlife photos and painting for which I have such a passion. Externally it resembles a standard home with a green metal roof. I waiting a long time to get the studio I wanted, built largely with my own two hands. It has an atmosphere and warmth reflective of the environment I need to create in. The large plate glass window looks through the branches of an oak which I grew from an acorn and offers a great view of the garden below. Many hours spent here go by so quickly and with Nepalese or Tibetan chanting or classical music adding a sense of contentment. I become so engrossed in what I do that time slips by without realising it. It is of utmost importance to me that I enjoy what I do, in an environment that warms the soul and allows one to attain new heights in creativity. My studio reminds me on a daily basis of how fortunate I am to have a space that I can truly call my own.
My interest in the human, animal and plant kingdoms developed with my own unique interpretation of the remarkable manner in which these worlds are structured. It is believed that humans disregard much of what they do not understand, but closer study reveals worlds of unique engineering and complexity, far beyond our understanding – worlds to be understood and revered.
The old masters like Bernini, Botticelli and Michelangelo are admired not only for their enormous creativity but also for the remarkable oeuvre they left behind. With vision, a chisel and a hammer they created out of stone – no mistakes possible! Whereas with clay one always has the possibility to go back and repair. My visits through Europe – and seeing those sculptures with my own eyes – led to a greater yearning to learn to become a sculptor myself. On other journeys, I admired sculptures in ancient Cambodian ruins, remote Tibetan villages, modern day public spaces and places of worship. Each captured a moment in time of a particular interest and opened up a world of possibilities to me. My need to be one with nature led me on hikes in the Himalayas, a trip to Everest Base camp. I followed the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and watched the sun come up through the sun gate. I walked through ancient Kathmandu. I marvelled at the lost magnificence of the Rajahs in India, the mysticism of ancient Egypt and the allure of Petra in Jordan. And the timeless pace in the Arctic where bones have had their earthen graves for thousands of years but appear to have recently turned from life to eternal rest. A more beautiful place there cannot be – yet, there is so much more . . .
Animals were always part of these encounters; I met many of them along the way. There were many memorable moments and subjects that needed to be immortalised – if only to be remembered.
Richard’s work has been described as:
“Sculptural, but more importantly memorable, long after it has been viewed…”
“….emotive establishing a connection”
“….unique and expressive, the soul of the subject is definitely present”
“….representational but yet interpretive, making it appealing to a wider audience”