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Biomorphic sculptures by Carolyn Frischling convey emotions and the intangible

Sculptor Carolyn Frischling brings together nature and technology through her sculptures in stone and bronze.

by Shailaja TripathiPublished on : Nov 05, 2020

It is 12am in Pennsylvania when I speak to artist Carolyn Frischling. Usually, Frischling isn’t awake till that late but that day was far from the ordinary. The first 2020 Presidential Campaign debate had concluded just a couple of hours back.

Frischling’s art carries no traces of politics. In the layers of her biomorphic sculptures are ensconced feelings and emotions. “I think about things that can’t be known empirically. They are about intangible feelings. My work is not didactic. When you see my work, I hope it opens up possibilities rather than narrowing down,” says the artist.

Avvolgente |Carolyn Frischling| STIRworld
Avvolgente, Enfolding, a sculpture in Bianco Piastra Marina marble by Carolyn Frischling Image: Carolyn Frischling

For instance, while creating ‘Avvolgente’, a marble sculpture weighing 600 pounds, Frischling was thinking about a fairytale. So, the sculpture with its fold turned out to be “enfolding kind of love. Wrapped up in love".

Even though her forms are abstract, they have identifiable elements. “That’s why I think of them as figurative in a very abstract way. I guess I make these layers, twists and folds to suggest movement in the sculptures,” expresses the sculptor.

Frischling studied drawing, printmaking and sculptures at Grinnell College in Iowa and Washington University in St.Louis. Until 2006, she was making two-dimensional sculptures in bronze and stone when she felt a gap. That’s when she decided to familiarise herself with the digital world and use those tools in her art. The artist watched a lot of tutorials on various software programmes such as Adobe, Autodesk, Zbrush and Meshmixer etc, and eventually started to create sculptures using 3D printing. Her larger sculptures are under one metre, and smaller sculptures are table-sized.

‘Physical Graffiti’ |Carolyn Frischling| STIRworld
‘Physical Graffiti’ in Bronze by Carolyn Frischling Image: Carolyn Frischling

It is fascinating to see how two ends of the spectrum - nature and technology - come together in her art.

Frischling’s creative process takes off with her designing three-dimensional forms on the computer. To see her design in a computer programme gives her thrill.

Giving a peek into her process, Frischling says, “I experiment with moving them around and combining them together in different ways. When I’m happy with the initial combined form, I further experiment with various deformations, additions and subtractions to the form. Working out the design beforehand allows me to make best use of precious and rare material. I utilise a multi-axis robot to rough out my design and then use pneumatic, electric and hand tools to finish my sculpture. The computer and robot allow me to attempt abstract sculpture with more complex geometry than has been realized until recently.”

For bronze sculptures, Frischling takes a 3D print of the sculpture for the mother mould at the foundry that employs the Lost Wax Method of Bronze casting. She also wants to project her videos onto the surface of her sculptures. “But perhaps only for a special event. I also need a good projector which is quite expensive. Each time I think of buying one, I instead buy another beautiful stone and more carving tools,” explains the sculptor.

The Cloud of Unknowing | Carolyn Frischling | STIRworld
‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ in Bronze by Carolyn Frischling Image: Linda Mills

Talking about her influences, Frischling says, “I am influenced by medieval mysticism, Kantian metaphysics, and Modernism. It is a contradiction to appearances, but I like to imagine the essence of something, what Kant called Noumenon or a thing-in-itself. She admires sculptors like Jon Isherwood, Jean Arp, Henry Moore, Tony Cragg, Helaine Blumenfeld and Sibylle Pasche.

Her sculpture being carved by the multi-axis robot at Garfagnana Innovazione in Gramolazzo, Lucca, Italy| Carolyn Frischling| STIRworld
Her sculpture being carved by the multi-axis robot at Garfagnana Innovazione in Gramolazzo, Lucca, Italy Image: Carolyn Frischling

Frischling has also attended digital stone carving residency founded and led by Isherwood in Garfagnana Innovazione Stone Centre in the mountains behind Massa Carrara in Italy. Participating in the Digital Stone Project aligns with Frischling’s desire to enrich her art practice with technology. Garfagnana Innovazione Stone Centre where the residency is held is state-of-the-art technology center equipped with robotic stone cutting equipment and provides access to high quality sculptural marble.

Sculpture is a labour-intensive medium but Frischling enjoys this extremely physical process. She tells me about the challenges of achieving that velvety smooth matte finish. Remembering her participation in the Garfagnana Innovazione Stone Centre in Italy she recalls working under the hot Tuscan sun and polishing the work until the grains of marble become visible. According to Frischling, sculpture is the culmination of her art practice. “It is the most challenging and fulfilling medium, utilising all my experience in other mediums,” she expresses. She goes on to add, “Sculpture that is something other than traditionally figurative is always a bit more challenging for the viewer to understand, but contemporary sculpture is pushing the boundaries of what has been done and what is possible with technology and the tools of today. I think sculpture evokes an ever-current interest because of its physical presence that often elicits strong reactions, especially with public sculpture.”

The artist is now planning to participate in a group show in July 2021 in Forte dei Marmi, Italy, with Digital Stone Project Residency — Digital Stone Project.

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