Interview with Sculptor, Michael James Talbot.

Creation of 'Cortigiana' by Michael James Talbot

The bronze sculpture artist talks about some of his inspiration and creative processes.

Three Graces by Michael James Talbot
Three Graces by Michael James Talbot

1. How has this year affected your creative flow and production.

If anything, I have had more focus. Being naturally reclusive the world passes me by at the best of times and these are not the best of times.  I have been forming a new collection of work and the inability to travel has allowed the necessary time.  Because my working process is so extended from the model, to drawing, to the clay sculpt and eventually the bronze.

It lends a perspective that encourages the long view, not informed by fashion, the temporary or the now, leading hopefully towards the timeless.

2. How would you describe your sculptures to someone who has never seen them?

My sculptures are bronze. They are feminine in the oldest sense of that word. A collaborative attempt to convey what is uniquely possible within the process. I have a sense of an image often generated by gesture or half seen movement, which is often theatrical, and I bring to it many hours and all that I know.

 3. What are your biggest references in Arts, Music and dance.

I would say Ballet for sculpture, is as the moth to the flame. My fascination is in the rehearsal of ballet – in the attempt and reattempt, rather than the formal performance.

In art, I love timeless depictions of the feminine, anything by Rembrandt and Rodin and for all the wrong reasons.

Of music, to my great regret I know nothing.

In Studio with Michael James Talbot

4. Could you briefly describe how you approach a piece, is there a pattern in your progression from start to finish?

I have been trying to resolve the same issues, using clay, to express particulars in beauty, for over 40 years. It took the first 30 years for me to work out this was what I was doing. So yes, you could call it a patten, or progression. The most rewarding part of the process is when the sculpture is about 2/3 finished. It is all promise and in my mind’s eye and I can project onto it what I want it to be. I am working exclusively from the live models now. The process is ancient and basic – clay and wire and living form. It is what I see, plus what I know.  This is what keeps me in the studio for long periods of time and often late into the night. It is always elusive, and evasive, and slightly out of reach. Time has taught me to push it as far as I can and then start again at a new tangent.

5. Balance and proportion are key elements in your work. What’s the most challenging sculpture you have worked on?

If I reflect on the note of balance and form, I l draw the conclusion that the whole process is a tightrope walk, and it is extremely easy to fall off! With practice you fall off less often, and you learn to recover from disasters midway, but it still makes your heart pound. The Three Graces certainly taunted and delighted me in a way that Sisyphus would recognise in a stoic frame of mind!

6. Finally, if you needed to choose one of your creations which one would it be and why?

I would have to say Ophelia, which I could describe as an epiphany. Creating this piece, I realised something about form that had been whispering in my ear and tugging at my elbow, since staring along the pencil in my very first life drawing class.

Ophelia by Michael James Talbot
‘Ophelia’ by Michael James Talbot

All Michael James Talbot sculpture can be seen in our shop.