Artist Interview • In the Studio with Philippe Buil
A sculptor of bronze and steel, Philippe Buil opened the doors of his studio in Saint-Étienne and gave us a peek into his world. His main source of inspiration stems from Greco-Roman art. With that as his base, he developed his own individual technique. KAZoART has carved out the fine details for you in this week’s edition of Artist Interviews.
Philippe Buil in a few words
In his workshop in Saint-Étienne, Philippe Buil works like an alchemist as he ingeniously combines the nobility of bronze and the strength of steel to breathe life into his forms. His knowledge of Greco-Roman mythology allows him to create familiar art with a new twist. His quest is to achieve intimacy and sensuality through natural representation.
K. What made you want to become a sculptor?
I was always around sculpture, even from a young age. My mother used to sculpt glass so I would watch and sometimes even help. Then I began dabbling in metalwork and my focus shifted towards steelworks, foundry, and cultlery. At the same time, I was still making sculptures for my friends, just for fun. A few years ago, I really felt the urge to pursue my art so I left my job and became a professional sculptor.
K. How would you describe one of your sculpting sessions?
The first step is in my head. I imagine the sculpture, its shapes, colours, its overall balance…I do this over and over again until I’m ready to make a mold. For the model, I start with plastic or wood. If I begin with a living model, I cover their body with plaster strips will harden. I then make a sand mold of my model using the foundry sand technique.
I then melt the metal and let it fall drop by drop. This allows me to create my “lace”. At the same time, I’m also alternating between steel and bronze to create the shade of colour I had imagined. Once I’m satisfied with my cast, I brush the sculpture for a long time to find the right shades of colour. Not only do I sign every sculpture but I also engrave the year of manufacture and registration number on it so that it can be recorded in my catalog. The process is finished off with a coat of varnish so that the colours won’t fade over time.
I have developed my own technique which consists of melting the metal drop by drop until it creates a lace.Philippe Buil
K. What are your artistic inspirations?
I am mainly inspired by two artistic trends: that of the Greco-Romans and the grand masters, especially Giacometti. Greco-Roman art inspires me when I’m working with bodies and specifically busts because it’s part of our history. I’m equally moved by the work of the great masters of sculpture. When you’re a sculptor and you go to a museum and see what they were able to accomplish, it’s very inspiring.
Busts and animals are two subjects that I’m particularly fond of. They let me adapt different techniques every time, depending on my mood or inspirations.
K. Which materials do you prefer the most?
My two favourite metals are bronze and steel. To better illustrate my point, let’s compare them to horses. Bronze is the working horse: noble, quiet and docile. While steel is the young Camargue: fiery, wild, and playful. My professional background in the world of metals has allowed me to know each one individually and understand how to work them with ease.
K. Can you tell us more about the technique you created?
I was looking for a way to recreate the transparency of glass (that I had learned from my mother) but wanted to use metal. I approached a few foundrymen but their method didn’t allow me to obtain the aesthetic I was looking for. I then developed my own technique which, as you know, consists of creating the metal “lace”, drip by drip. This is a guarantee that each work will be unique. Using this technique, it’s physically impossible to make identical sculptures because each drop has the freedom to take up however much space it needs.
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