Scrap metal, a welding machine and an overheated imagination are all that were required for Andrew Chase to create these surprisingly terrifying and terrific robotic sculptures.
At about the same time that I was interviewing American artist Andrew Chase regarding his robotic menagerie, the movie Godzilla was released to the world. As theatre halls shuddered with the screams of an over stimulated audience, much of what I had planned to ask Andrew about his artistic vision suddenly became obvious.
American artist Andrew Chase is a photographer who also creates sculptures and furniture. This multi-faceted artist graduated with a Major in Photography who has no other formal training in art; his entry into the world of designing furniture and sculpture too was quite unconventional.
“After college, I moved to Salt Lake City to work as a commercial photographer, and soon after bought a small welder to make a set of otherwise unaffordable security bars for my studio. After finishing the windows, I went a little crazy and welded all new furniture for my studio and apartment with mixed success.” A little more tinkering later and Andrew discovered an inherent talent for sculpting.
Blending reality with his impassioned imagination, Andrew sculpts creatures that are familiar to memory but clearly belong to a different world. His cheetah, elephant, giraffe, polar bear and other creations are made out of sheet metal, rods, pipes, tubing and other interesting bits and pieces he comes across.
He adds, “One of my favorite places to find components for my work is an industrial salvage outlet. They have all sorts of weird and unidentifiable fasteners and bits of machinery that I just love to use. I get almost all of my gears and bearings from auto transmission shops. Most of them are happy to let me take whatever I want from their recycling bins.”
Recycling junk to create art is a trend that has gained much traction recently, though Andrew’s motivation is slightly off centre. “I use recycled material because it’s the easiest and cheapest way to get cool and interesting stuff. There’s also the serendipity factor – working with what I find forces me to be more creative than I would be if I just ordered parts from a catalogue.”
Using his liberated powers of visualisation, Andrew reproduces a verity in likeness that is as awe-inducing as it is terrifying. The standard cheetah is 24 inches at the shoulder and takes roughly 4 weeks to create while the life-size cheetah is 36 inches high and takes about 6 weeks till completion. These robotic animals are closer to the kinds you encounter in sci-fi movies than at a zoo.
A confirmed sci-fi buff, Andrew unleashes his own wild imagination with photographs of his creatures in angles and situations that are intriguing and post-apocalyptic.
Andrew’s vision of an alternative world is both thrilling and frightening but what makes his robotic menagerie spectacular is the unexpected kinetic endowment of each creature. The animals are perfectly joint, well articulated and capable of striking a number of poses.
Andrew explains his animals were initially intended as characters for a picture book and in order to arrange them in different poses it was essential to keep their bodies flexible. He came across the idea of creating a picture book one day while indulging his imagination with photographs of the robots running down deserted streets, hiding on a rooftop or broken down and rusting on a mountain top.
He says, “I decided to continue making them (the sculptures) articulated because this gives the piece a sense of realism and honesty that they might not otherwise have. With a static sculpture you can cheat in ways that you can’t with a kinetic one.”
The concept of a sci-fi story backed with real photographs of the sculptures in action was simple; executing it however proved to be a monumental task. In the end, it took thirty five shots and four years to finish his first book – Timmy. He says acceptingly, “Timmy still isn’t published but I certainly don’t regret doing it. It was a great learning experience and it got me started making sculptures which has been hugely enjoyable.”
In the meantime, Andrew’s sculptures have found many takers and some animals have already moved to new houses and to new owners. The human fascination with creationism is never-ending. Andrew has now discovered ways to give life to his imagination. It will be interesting to see what he does next.
Text By Christabelle Athaide
Photographs Courtesy Andrew Chase