The Creation of Winds of War – the Presentation to Paris

• private collection, Vancouver, BC, Canada

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada marble female nude iliad homer aphrodite helen of troy

Binkley was commissioned to create a sculpture of two life-sized female nudes, which he completed in February, 2008. After collaborating with the patron as to the subject for the sculpture, the theme of a scene from Homer’s Iliad was chosen. Pictured is Binkley’s original concept sketch, but the patron gave Binkley artistic licence to change the figure’s poses if he felt the need.

The sculpture is carved from a single 5 ton block of bianco marble which was quarried in the mountains above the famous town of Carrara, Italy. This is the area where Michelangelo would insist the marble material for his sculptures to be sourced.

As Binkley is a direct carver, he does not use a model to copy from, but instead sees the completed sculpture entirely in his head. This was his most ambitious project to date that involved his direct carving technique and was a risk given the expense of the stone. He had no room for error. Binkley began by blocking out the shoulders for the women, then removing the mass from in front of and behind the figures.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada marble female nude iliad homer aphrodite helen of troy

 

The artist used the distance between the opposite corners of the block for the maximum width for the sculpture. Though the block appeared sound, he encountered a fissure that penetrated halfway down the block and he is shown removing marble up to the fissure at left. Binkley uses water cooled diamond blade angle grinders to make frets which he pounds off using hammer and chisel. This method is a fast, non-physically taxing way to remove large amounts of bulk stone.

During this process, Binkley noticed a line appearing behind Helen’s head and it inspired a change in composition. Instead of having both women’s hair falling downward, the sculptor changed Helen’s hair to be blowing out behind her. This added to the sculpture’s story and inspired the title.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada marble female nude iliad homer aphrodite helen of troy

 

After the sculpture was roughed out using the angle grinders, Binkley switched to using pneumatic hammer and chisel. This allows for better control of shape and form, but is faster than the traditional “armstrong” method of plain hammer and chisel.

The artist encountered another small fissure across Aphrodite’s face and had to turn her head slightly towards Helen in order to bypass the crack.

The patron wanted Binkley to carve the figure’s faces as those of the most beautiful women. A very subjective request, so Binkley asked the patron for his opinion of his two most beautiful women. The patron answered Angelina Jolie and Jessica Alba. Binkley used Angelina as the basis for Helen’s face and Jessica for Aphrodite’s face.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada marble female nude iliad homer aphrodite helen of troy

 

Binkley’s biggest challenge was carving out the negative space between the figures. He recalls wanting to have the figures separate until he was finished carving each and then have them return to their positions – a dream, of course!

Because the final position of each figure and her body parts were not mathematically known, Binkley worked carefully each step of the way. In delicate spots, such as between Helen’s body and her left arm, he used a rotary die grinder to remove stone without the vibration of hammer and chisel.

Most of the composition is considered “closed,” as the viewer’s eye is taken around the sculpture and circles back – except for Helen’s hair and left hand. These are open and lead the eye away. As Helen’s hand is extended backwards, Binkley left a bridge of stone between her hip and her wrist as a structural support for transportation. Once the sculpture was in situs in the patron’s office, Binkley carefully removed the bridge.

Michael Binkley