Which path will the art of sculpting pursue when – in future – a work of art is worked out of a raw block by a robotic arm?

„Percorsi d’Arte“.

In Hall 1 of Marmomac 2018, the gap between modern CNC Machinery and artistic work was inspected and illuminated

Since about two decades, computer numerical control machinery (CNC-machinery) has taken over in the natural stone branch. One facet of their implementation is the robotic arm containing a multitude of tools set in one robotic arm, Transformer-like, able to accomplish a multitude of tasks singlehandedly (pun intended).

But the use of CNC Machinery in working stone sculptures is a more delicate matter and was the subject of a podium discussion in Hall 1 of Marmomac 2018. „Percorsi d’Arte“ (Ways of Art), shown in our photos.

Industrial designer Raffaello Galiotto, curator of the collection set the path: the aim was to „investigate how machinery can be used in artistic processing of stone materials”.

The question, when thinking of using machinery to craft works of stone art, was not „if“, but rather „how“.

Let us take a look at an example to gain an idea of the dimensions in question: railroads have changed the modern world drastically. That does not mean that no-one walks to a destination of choice any more. But for long hauls, walking is considered impractical.

So, too, has the nature of horseback riding changed. Whereas it used to be a recognized means of transportation for thousands of years, equestrian locomotion is a thing of the past. Horses now serve other purposes like sport, betting, and recreation.

But how does CNC machinery influence the sculptor’s work?

Let us innumerate a few aspects addressed at the podium-discussion in Hall 1:
∗ CNC machines allow sculptors to realize objects, which could not be made by hand;
∗ the machines leave tool marks – should they be polished away or are they interesting effects to be integrated in the creation?
∗ The artist works with a team, usually comprising one expert CNC programmer – does this compromise his autonomy and artistic freedom?
∗ In the past the artist conceived his work of art in his mind and then set out to chisel away the negative portions of his raw block – now there is a digital draft allowing for corrections if needed – what does the opportunity to correct entail?
∗ Finally: there is the digital version of the piece comprising a binary code – a series of 0’s and 1’s – does it also, when, read by the machine, fulfil the criteria of work of art?
∗ And is the sculpture as such needed anymore at all when computer simulation is suitable for projecting an image? Or put another way, what makes the stone version so special?

And we dare add yet another question: what will sculpting symposia of the future look like? Will the machines compete, and the artist merely flick a switch?

At the outset of „Percorsi d’Arte“, participating sculptors were given a block 180 x 80 x 30 cm. We add Marmomac’s description to the photos.


Photos: Luca Morandini / PhShoot / Peter Becker

Nicolas Bertoux: „Houle“.Nicolas Bertoux: „Houle“.Nicolas Bertoux: „Houle“. The new possibilities made available by numerical control machines every day in creating objects and other works in marble help us discover new forms of expression, invent new surfaces, conceive form in positive and negative ways on the basis of 3D models. In this project, „Houle” (sinusoidal sea waves) seeks to experiment how to approach a surface created by a machine, an apparently improvised, almost manual expression capable of juxtaposing surface imperfections created with different rhythms depending on the various processing axes. Production: Emmedue. Tools: Nicolai Diamant. Software: DDX. Material: Bardiglio by G.R. Marmi.

Raffaello Galiotto: „Atollo“.Raffaello Galiotto: „Atollo“.Raffaello Galiotto: „Atollo“. Atollo is an island that emerges from the water as a kind of limestone boundary: an open and permeable top plate that delimits inside and outside. The spherical shape is created by joining 40 identical parts produced by repeatedly cutting a stone cube with a robot-controlled wire cutting system. This operation involves separating and reconfiguring the material to mould and amplifies the initial volume with a significant reduction in waste. Production: T&D Robotics. Material: Bianco di Carrara by GDA Marmi e Graniti.

Sylvestre Gauvrit: „Andante ma non troppo“.Sylvestre Gauvrit: „Andante ma non troppo“.Sylvestre Gauvrit: „Andante ma non troppo“. „Andante ma non troppo” is first of all an allegory of a classical music movement. Like Mozart would indicate the tempo for the orchestra to play what he wrote, as contemporary sculptor I give the tempo to the machine which will execute the 3D drawing I designed. The design itself is a „Dynamic in balance”. With this sculpture I like to play by contrasting the subtle lines of its very thin and dynamic with the heaviness and straight geometry from the block it was extracted from. It is escaping the matter… creating a veil which represents the soul of the stone. I like to play the space keeping the external part of the block „rough” holding the sculpture flying within this solid defined volume. So unconsciously it lets you imagine the initial block/volume, the matter, while emphasizing the technology involved in the realization of this project. Production: Denver. Software: Taglio. Material: Bianco di Carrara.

Jon Isherwood: „Homage to Monet at Giverny”.Jon Isherwood: „Homage to Monet at Giverny”.Jon Isherwood: „Homage to Monet at Giverny”. Isherwood’s recent sculpture represents the further development of his ongoing dialogue with the associative sensations of form and surface. Forms are compressed, distorted, or squeezed, and made more intimate by subtle adjustments of scale. He does not imitate nature; however, his forms are inspired by and refer to nature in their shape and pattern. The tension between shape and surface that characterizes Isherwood’s work is further reflected in the tensions surrounding his technique and material. His sculptures are the result of a unique process in which the ancient and the modern confront one another: marble, the oldest and most sensual sculptural material, is carved with the assistance of 7-axis CNC technologies. This allows Isherwood to attain an uncompromised precision in his treatment of the incised surfaces, which play with and against the swelling, fleshy, soft and yet substantial character of his organic forms. A particular artistic challenge of this project is that Isherwood will not alter the stone with his hands, but only indirectly through the instructions given thru code to the milling machine. The machine will reveal natural forms into the material. Production: Garfagnana Innovazione. Material: Bardiglio.

Nicholas Bertoux. Photo: privateRaffaello Galiotto. Photo: privateSylvestre Gauvrit. Photo: privateJon Isherwood. Photo: private

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(26.12.2018, USA; 26.12.2018)