Trapped, the new body of work at Angell Gallery by emerging sculptor Nicholas Crombach, works with the tradition of figuration to explore ethical issues with our relationship to the animal world. The effect is emotional, slightly fantastical works that depict a distinct vulnerability to all living creatures. We caught up with Crombach to find out more about his show Trapped (July 24th-August 15th).
Photos By Jazmyne V K Carr
Studio Beat: So Nick, what’ve you been up to in the last year, how’s the work been coming along?
Nicholas Crombach: Well, I’ve spent the last year or two creating this new work, these under-scale figures. I’ve been working on this and other small bodies of work on the side, but my main focus has been on these resin cast sort of grey colored figures.
SB: Did you have a specific idea in mind before you started?
Crombach: The figures, they don’t exist, they’re made up characters. I think this body of work is a transition from the body of work I did of cows, it’s exploring very similar themes and ideas. I like the craft of making. I like to make reference to tradition in terms of both its appearance but also its concepts.
SB: You grew up on a dairy farm, so I can see the connection to animals there. What was growing up on a dairy farm like?
Crombach: When I was younger I always hated it, but looking back it was good. I think some of the sculptures here may be inspired by my father, I don’t know does that sound weird?
SB: Not at all. I love sculptures of children, they’re vulnerable, their big eyes and round bellies.
Crombach: It’s funny when I made “Predator, Prey & Victim,” a number of people thought it was me but it is not really. There are two children sculptures in the show and vulnerability is definitely a theme in the work. I’m also interested in our coexistence with nature, specifically animals, and the ethical dilemma of that relationship.
SB: Obviously there are stylistic aspects to these works. They’re under-scale, the skin is grey and textured. What’s up with that?
Crombach: They’re made with modeling clay and then cast in resin. All the textures and markings you’re seeing on the surface is made in the clay modeling stage and I really enjoy having areas that are more tight and finished and areas that are more rough with tool marks showing. You’ll notice that on the lace wigs by addcolo or the tips of the fingers it’s incomplete. The grey color also gives an in process look. I like process and seeing work in process.
SB: Where do the faces on the figures come from?
Crombach: I look at a bunch of faces on the computer. I look at body parts for reference and I’ll draw sketches but it’s more the idea, figuring out who these figures are. I might like the wrinkle around someone’s eyes, the nose. It’s just a starting point for me. I like the subtleties.
SB: How did you get in touch with Angell?
Crombach: I enter a lot of exhibitions. I’ve been in a few sculpture gardens. With Jamie, I just sort of threw my work at him.
SB: Did you approach him in person?
Crombach: I actually contacted him over Facebook. The informal nature of Facebook has been really good for me. I had an opportunity in Santa Fe through Facebook a message.
SB: Has this approach ever backfired on you?
Crombach: Nah, I’m pretty selective with who I message. You’re told not to do that, not to Facebook message, but I’m not the type of guy to go in, shake his hand and show him my work. Actually, the night I wrote him, I wasn’t going to send it, but I’m glad I did. If you don’t try it doesn’t happen.
SB: True. What are you going to do now?
Crombach: Go back to work.
Angell Gallery will present the exhibition Trapped from July 25 – August 15.
Hours: Wed. – Sat. 12– 5 pm and by appointment
12 Ossington Ave., Toronto