Thursday, July 31, 2008

William Pye

Internationally-known sculptor, William Pye, (shown above with artist and collector, Elsbeth Juda) is best known for his innovative metal sculptures in which water plays a key element.

His early works from the 60's and 70's, consisted of large scale, tubular sculptures such as Narcissus (below). His signature material during that time was mirror polished stainless steel as shown in this sculpture, or chrome-plated (satin finish) steel as shown in "Ganglion Maquette" below that. It wasn't until much later in his life that he became fascinated with making sculpture using water.

In recent years, Pye has concentrated on mainly large-scale public commissions, most works with stainless steel and water and discusses the emotional impact of this work in the following video that can be seen HERE, if you can't see it below:

The form of a cornucopia - the horn of plenty - was taken by Pye as a flat image and extruded to create its three-dimensional form, just as he had done when articulating the different levels in Nautilus.
This however, is a simple monolith, which Pye has enlivened with water skimming over the mirror-polished stainless steel in roll-wave patterns. As the building maybe entered at ground-floor and first floor levels, the sculpture can be encountered as a brimming pool, or as ambiguously formed walls of water. The walls themselves are variously flat, concave, convex, offering a variety of reflections and reflected light.


Pye is probably best known for his vortex concept in which swirling water plays a major role. This piece in the departure lounge of Gatwick Airport North Terminal, comprises three transparent vessels of different diameters, where water rises and falls in programmed cycles. As the water rises an air-core vortex forms in each vessel and water finally overflows the perimeter edge to ripple down the vertical sides.

Charybdis is another of his better known sculptures using the vortex concept.

William Pye's observations of natural forms, combined with his creative use of geometry, lie at the heart of his sculptures. Although brought up in London, Pye spent a lot of time at his family's country home in Surrey, and was constantly fascinated by the water that abounded throughout the area. He captured on camera the local ponds and pools, reflections in still water and on its rippled surfaces, he dammed streams to make cascades and recorded the way water reacted to his intervention. On his travels he would photograph water: a particular gorge in Spain, a still, deep pool on a mountaintop in Mexico and water flowing down a mountain road in Wales are only three examples from his vast photographic library. Pye has used his reference material constantly: since his stainless steel sculptures, and from the 1980s when he introduced water as a major sculptural element in his work.

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Stacy Alexander