Lilac – Scott Radke

Here we are in what is set to be a dismal Halloween. The weather in the UK is just pretty dull, we are waiting on the potential second wave of COVID, therefore any Halloween fun you might have thought of having with 6 friends inside the privacy of your own home, has probably been trampled all over because your friends now have to stay outside in the rain. The clocks have changed, so soon you will be getting up in the dark and then watching it get dark from your home office widow at 4:30pm. It is all just a bit rubbish, isn’t it?

With this seemingly dull prospect to the end of 2020 (honestly can’t wait to see the back of it), I wanted to bring you a piece of work which is fantasy based, as we all need a bit of cheering up and something a bit more upbeat to think about. If you know the artwork of Scott Radke, you might wonder why I have chosen something that is seemingly dark to talk about, but the more I read about the artist the more I think that his work is just based on nature rather than anything more sinister.

In interviews I have read with Radke, his work has been described as “darkly sweet”, and you can see why, with cherubim cheeks and gnarled bodies, Radke’s work strikes a tone of ominous beauty.

Radke is a bit of enigma. If you read articles about him, he definitely dissociates himself from his work, identifying as a father and an individual rather than a artist. He describes it as work that he loves doing, but it is work, and his creations don’t represent him as a person at all.

What I can find out is that he works in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in the nearby suburb of Strongsville. Radke has experimented with various media throughout his life and currently focuses on the creation of sculptural hybrid creatures. In 1999 the popularity of his creations allowed him to leave his job at a bed-frame factory to pursue his creative passion on a full-time basis.

Radke’s works have been featured in films including “Voices In My Head”, a BBC documentary directed by David Malone; “Desolation Sound”, starring Jennifer Beals; “God in the Machine”, starring Thomas Jay Ryan; and Birthday Massacre’s music video, Blue.

Radke has stated that he finds inspiration in nature, people’s faces, his daughter and animals, which really shine through in the sculptures, which at a glance may all look to have similar faces but the key in them is understanding the expression to identify the differences.

I chose “Lilac” as the piece for this article as I am naturally drawn to unicorn motifs, and this is far from the sparkling multicoloured horned horses that we now see everywhere today. This more lends itself to the more tempestuously tempered creature that could only be controlled by a virgin who was pure of mind.

The piece has been made from clay (magic sculpt), wire, burlap, wood and acrylic paint, which all lend itself to the mystical yet natural aesthetic of the piece. If I concentrate on the face, it is quite obviously not equine based, but more human. If I really look at the face, it reminds me of the moon, with its small, delicate features and round shape. The eyes are dark and stormy, so while the face looks placid, there is a power that sits behind the expression, it is almost like the creature can see through to your soul.

The horn is looming, and quite obviously much larger that you would usually attribute to a unicorn, almost although this is meant to be used to impale rather than for decoration. The skin tone is mottled with lilac undertones and blue/green dabbling giving the impressions that this is a creature which is more suited to camouflage at night, in broken moonlit forests.

The body looks as though it has been stitched together, perhaps suggesting that the animal is more of a creation than a natural being, lending a backstory from more oriental lands (especially if I think of the story of the silkworm girl). Finally the hooves are small and delicate, indicating that this is a swift and light footed creature that could escape your eye in a blink.

I always find it so fascinating when I get to sit and really look at a piece of work, and what unfolds for me as the viewer, and equally what others see in the same piece as it is rarely the same view point. There is a second incarnation of “Lilac” called “Lilac 2” where you can see the colouration of the piece much clearer…

You can still see all the same elements from the first piece, yet somehow the face looks more inquisitive and less ominous.

Regardless of whether you feel that this are majestic forest dwelling creatures, or something from much darker forces, it is undeniable that Radke is a talent in creating sculptures whose enigmatic presence are a glimpse into a fantasy world.

If you want to know more about Scott Radke you can find his website here. You can find more than just his sculpture work on his sight, and I would encourage you to look at the many creatures he has created.

What do you think of “Lilac”? Why not tell me in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?

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