Meet the DORSET ART WEEKS artists: Laura Pentreath

Laura Pentreath’s route to becoming a sculptor came through the workshops and teaching of another sculptor, Clare Trenchard (and, a Dorset Art Weeks artist). Prior to this, Laura would have categorised her own artistic pursuits as a ‘strong hobby’ which she loved and yet despite having studied art at school she was a ‘late starter’ when it came to considering making a career in an art-related area.

Laura’s choice of sculpture was as a result of discovering the new medium through Clare’s courses, and finding that not only was she successful with it, but the process was immensely satisfying too. She notes that one has to study form and create sculpture from life, and recalls observing a horse in detail when it was brought into the class with its handler. She notes that this is not always the case, and certainly wild animals present more of a challenge when trying to get close up – two of her works in the Dorset Art Weeks auction depict hares: Leaping Hares, in bronze and Boxing Hares, in bronze resin. However, growing up in Lincolnshire, where there were ‘hares all over’, she had many memories of the hare’s configuration – nature’s gift of a motif to art and certainly to sculpture.

Leaping Hares, bronze, limited edition 6 of 20, signed, numbered + dated ’16; 38cm high, 29cm wide, est. £2,500 (+fees)

Laura says that when it comes to their subject, the sculptor is looking for a lean and active animal. Along with the hare, the lurcher is also well suited, and in creating the piece the addition of flesh to fill out the skeleton will produce the dog. Her third piece from the auction, Running Lurcher, in bronze resin,  captures the naturally effortless speed and effectiveness of the hound’s physique. In considering what she aims to present, Laura explains it is the feeling of the animal and not its exact representation. In revealing its character to us she might pick up on a feature which typifies the animal and she’ll exaggerate it to whimsical, quirky effect. In Hares Boxing their ears take on larger, and an even more elegant shape; they act almost as sails in conveying the delicate balance of the composition, allowing the expression of energy to be conveyed with the animals poised on their hind legs throwing punches at each other.

Interestingly, the composition of the two hare sculptures has dictated the choice of material and the method of casting. Leaping Hares is in bronze because the design calls for them to be joined by their paws, this point of fusion needs to be extremely strong and can only be achieved through the use of bronze. Whereas in Boxing Hares, the two are separate and so bronze resin is suitable.  It is only when the two pieces are physically handled that one appreciates the difference, with the bronze piece much heavier than that in bronze resin, and cold to the touch while bronze resin has a certain warmth. Laura’s works are cast at three foundries – for her bronzes she will go to either Shepton Mallet or Sherborne, and for bronze resins to Bridgewater. Happily these foundries have managed to stay in operation during lockdown.

Boxing Hares, bronze resin, limited edition 9 of 30, signed and numbered on base; 32cm high, 38cm wide, est. £750 (+fees)

Laura’s work is a combination of commissions and then subjects which inspire her. She remarks that dogs tend to dominate the subject matter in the first of these, and that the necessity of working in this particular instance to get a close likeness to a much loved family pet can be stressful, this is complicated by the fact that we all tend to see the same things in different ways. Once the sculpture is cast there are no second chances so the client is closely involved at every step of the way as the work comes together. Laura’s own current inspiration is the flamingo: the bird’s impossibly slim, straight legs and the distinctive ‘S’ curve of its long neck are design delights for her. Once she has perfected her first flamingo she plans on making a series, the sculpture will need to be in bronze due to the delicacy of the limbs. And a second focus is the roe deer, ultimately to be cast at life size and to grace outside spaces, such as gardens. Laura initially produces a small scale maquette to fully explore and iron out the deer’s proportions, and only when it works as a miniature will it be scaled up to full size for casting.

Running Lurcher, bronze resin, 19cm high, 27cm wide; est. £375 (+fees) 

As for lockdown Laura has found that with all of life inevitably going online some exciting developments have resulted. One example being the Artist Support Pledge, the genius idea of artist Matthew Burrows, whereby having sold work to the sum of £1,000 the artist concerned then commits to buying art worth £200 from another artist. Laura has sent her own sold works to Hong Kong and the States as well as the UK, and has taken the opportunity to experiment with her own new art purchases. As with Dorset Art Weeks’ presentation this year, the reach and clout of the online format continues to surprise and delight.

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