Self-taught artist Gavin Worth works wonders with a modest material like black steel wire to create two dimensional, fluidic and life-like sculptures; each is infused with its own unique character and tell-tale human emotions.
After a formal training in acting, and a brief stint in the world of performing arts as an actor and musician, designer and illustrator Gavin Worth found his true calling and moved on to the world of sculpting. His extremely dynamic life journey – he was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in New Mexico, and lived in San Francisco and Egypt before moving to Lausanne, Switzerland, where he lives currently – seems to have contributed toward the decision of giving up a promising career in acting and music to foray into visual arts, that too as a complete novice.
His lifelong passion for sculpting, painting and drawing received the much needed boost when he first saw a picture of Michelangelo’s famous ‘Head of Leda’ in a book. Thus, began a journey of self-learning that has brought him recognition, success and satisfaction in equal measure.
“I have been playing music since I was 10 and it’s a big part of my life – I play piano, violin, and guitar, and I love acting as well. When I left university, I kept finding work as an actor and musician, and while it was somewhat satisfying artistically, there was always a quiet, but much deeper voice calling me to the visual arts,” Gavin says about the experiences that altered the course of his life.
Sculpture was his first love. He vividly remembers finding books about Michelangelo in the library and being so taken with the images that he saw there, that he saved every penny and the first chance he got, he traveled to Florence to see the ‘David’. It completely changed his life, seeing something so simple and so perfect. And now completing a new sculpture brings him close to that feeling of wonder, time and time again.
The 35-year-old artist, however, was not satisfied working with traditional media popularly used by sculptors across the world. “I originally practiced with very traditional media: clay, oils, charcoal, and pencil, but I continually felt that the work lacked a presence. It said nothing new to me and felt tired. I put it all aside and searched for other, uncommon materials to experiment with,” he shares.
Gavin wanted a new visual vocabulary that felt fresh. He was always drawn to a strong sense of line, so when he saw a roll of black steel wire, he knew exactly what he could do with it: create freestanding line drawings. His latest work, “Thirst,” is particularly ingenious: the sculpture reveals two separate images depending on the viewing angle. He is currently exploring ways to add light to his work and develop a series of illuminated wall panels.
Gavin’s freestanding, two dimensional line figurines are truly one-of-their-kind. Since it was an art form he essentially evolved, the journey involved a great deal of self-learning. To Gavin, that learning curve has always been fascinating. “When I first picked up that roll of black steel wire many years ago, I had no idea that the concept would develop to the point that it has. It has been a huge learning curve, but a fascinating one at the same time. I love the feeling of the steel in my hands, and I love shaping it and seeing a sculpture come together. As I finish a series, there is a part of me that is never satisfied – I continually want to go further.”
Gavin got his first break when he was commissioned by Lexus to create a series of sculptures to mark their emergence in Brazil. He has since worked with big names such as Tiffany & Co and Ralph Lauren and even qualified as a finalist for the 2014 TED Fellowship.
Working on commercial projects is a big part of his journey as an artist. But, when not working on a client’s brief, what is his most favorite subject to bring to life? “I truly love working with clients. The defined parameters stir my imagination. When I am working on a new series, though, I am more and more drawn to nature. I am fascinated with the antithesis found there – how an overgrown forest can be both beautiful and menacing.” The artist in Gavin is deeply inspired by the archetypes from old stories and mythologies and there is a truth to these figures that fascinates him endlessly.
One sees a lot of human faces and feminine figures in Gavin’s creations. So, what do these sculptures represent to him? “My sculptures are meant to explore the beauty of the human experience in all of its variety, from youth to old age, happiness to sorrow, growth to decay.” He sees profound beauty in moments of human vulnerability and honesty, and these are the images to which he is continually drawn.
Text By Arushi Chaudhary
Photographs Courtesy Gavin Worth