Sarah-Jane Silvester meets the man behind York’s Life Casting Exhibition
It was a surreal experience being sat in a kitchen with a friend, both wrapped in plastic bags, having a sloppy yoghurt like substance spooned onto our nipples for the sake of ‘art’. Not something I profess to do everyday I might add. But life casting is just that. It is not a glamorous process. Just messy, and very, very cold.
Brandishing the spoon was York PhD student Tobi (who wishes to conceal his family name for fears that his art may have negative reactions from employers in the future). His house bears witness to the extent to which casting is a part of his life. Components of pieces set to be exhibited shortly in a student exhibition in Langwith College are scattered everywhere. Hands and faces balance on shelves and torsos are leant against radiators. And nipples. Rows upon rows of nipples.
The nipples will be used in probably his most controversial piece entitled “We Feed The World”. The piece plays upon our dual perception of the female nipple as both sexual object and organic object that provides man his first source of energy. 100 stark white female nipples are set in a jet black 10×10 matrix. Tobi says, “It is supposed to look rather offensive from a distance but I want to get people to think a bit further about the ‘double moral’ that exists in our society. Breasts are a part of our natural system of raising young, yet they are such a taboo. Nowadays a woman is even looked down upon if she breastfeeds in public!”
Tobi says, “I am showing people as they are; the casts are like a frozen moment of time; a 3D snapshot. You can pull a cast out of your cupboard 20 years later and say, “yeah that was me 20 years ago.” Tobi explained to us how the casting process works: “I begin by making a negative mould of the model by building up a shell of moulding material which when removed creates an inverted structure. Later this mould can be filled with plaster/chocolate/wax etc. and when that sets you are left with a positive which is an exact copy of the model. The surface can then be altered to the desired effect, smoothed or coloured or given a stone effect.”
Seeing himself as part artist, part craftsman, Tobi readily admits that his artwork does not require as much artistic skill as other art forms such as sculpture who create a lifelike form from a solid block of stone. He sees his role as artist as showcasing nature’s art, saying, “I see casting as showing nature as it is, a bit like photography, capturing the natural beauty.” For Tobi casting is his relaxation after a busy day studying. He calls his work his “mental relief” saying, “after working towards my PhD in front of a computer all day long, often with little visible progress, it is so refreshing being able to hold something I have made in my hands. Some people do gardening – I do life casting!”
Despite casting being primarily a hobby Tobi is more than happy to take commissions for both males and females and should be contacted at [email protected] Tobi’s work is part of the student run exhibition currently displayed in the Norman Rae Gallery in Langwith College. Entry is free to all and the gallery is open 9am-8pm on weekdays.