Chris Crane spent his early childhood years playing in and around the river Kendal in the Lake District. He attributes being immersed in the natural world in his formative years to the love of nature that inspires his work now. Always creative, he attended the Lancaster School of Art and went on the obtain a BA in Fine art and Sculpture at Cardiff University.
Chris told us that he moved to Carmarthenshire in 2000 and has settled here with his family. He loves nothing more than discovering all the fantastic treasures that Pembrokeshire has to offer.
“Many times, whilst wandering the coast, the highlight of a trip will be spotting a Falcon hovering on the up draft of a cliff or a curious seal bobbing in the sea.”
I asked him if he had some favourite places.
“I really enjoy dolphin spotting off Newquay, seal spotting near Marloes and Skomer and the otters of Bosherston.. We are still discovering new bays and coves, hills and walks which are alive with the nature that inspires my work “
And Chris’s work fairly fizzes with the beauty that he so keenly admires.
I asked him how he sets about beginning a new piece.
Chris says he is always looking for the idea or inspiration that will spark a new project.
“I love the excited energy I get when I am inspired. Initially I make sketches but it’s when I place the first few pieces of steel that I capture a glimpse of the form. At this point all can feel possible.”
What sort of materials do you use in your work?
“My work is nearly exclusively made from reclaimed materials. They are gathered from industrial sites, scrap yards and sometimes people bring me items they no longer need. I think people just don’t like to see things go to waste.”
Chris also works as a volunteer for the Llanelli and Carmarthen branch of Tools for Self Reliance. This charity refurbishes old tools and sends them to Africa. They also organize training to bring about effective and sustainable change to Trades People and their communities.
“Sometimes,” Chris explains, “ tools are simply beyond saving and these can often find their way into my work.”
He says that he has always enjoyed working with reclaimed objects because they bring something else to the sculpture.
“I think the idea that something has had a life before is appealing and the way that something has been designed and constructed for another purpose brings another quality that you would not get by simply fabricating from a fresh piece of steel.”
He says that these objects and shapes often drive the direction of the sculpture and sometimes even inspire one.
Does it always go according to plan? I am sure you must encounter some challenges bringing your ideas into solid form.
Chris agrees, “As I get further into the sculpture, it can sometimes be a struggle to find and fill the gaps between the reality of the pieces I am fixing together and the idea I imagined initially. It’s not until it’s been finished and left the workshop or installed in place (either in the gallery or in situ) that the initial idea finally comes together and I get the satisfaction that the piece works.”
Tell me about some of your pieces?
“There is SOL. I was given the large spiral-welded tube sections from an old wind turbine.. I liked the idea that the wind turbine, which once captured the wind’s energy, was to be used to portray the energy of a horse. As I worked with the form as a bust. I applied roofing struts, gate hinges and other bits to introduce the curves of a breaking wave.”
Initially, Chris explains, the piece was titled White Horse. When the sculpture went on to become one of the highlights of the “Art At” visual art show at the Rhosygilwen Mansion in North Pembrokeshire, it was renamed Sol, after the sun god. It now resides permanently at the entrance to the solar park.
The Bull, another beautiful piece is the largest of Chris’s sculptures so far and was made on an industrial site for a client in Newport (Gwent). It stands over 10 feet long and 7 feet to the top of the bull’s shoulder. It was created from huge gears, discarded diggers, scrapped lorries, industrial and agricultural machinery and expresses the bull’s power and strength.
“Reclaimed Moments was one of my solo exhibitions, celebrating the 10th year of exhibiting with Workshop Wales. The exhibition is focused on the rich and diverse wildlife of the Pembrokeshire landscape in which the gallery is set.”
Chris tells us that there are many more examples of his work on his website and on his facebook page.
I asked Chris if he has a favourite piece and why?
“It’s so hard to find a favourite piece, I loved making the Bull in Newport just for it’s epic scale and how it embraced the industrial-sized materials such as lorry axles, digger teeth and tractor wheels. But the work that I enjoyed making most, that is inherent to Pembrokeshire, is the seal. I loved capturing the feeling of joy and freedom it exhibits in the sea. I can relate to that!”
Where can people see your work?
“The majority of my work is done out of a private unit at my home. A lot of what I create is commission-based – you can see some of the key pieces on the website and blog and I am happy to answer enquiries from anyone interested in my work.
I have been a part of the annual collection at Workshop Wales Gallery in Manorowen for over ten years and celebrated that with a solo exhibition in 2016. This place has been a great outlet for my creativity and has led to many commissions and exciting projects.”
Chris goes on to explain that most of his work is in private collections, Though he does have some public work, such as the horses at Ffôs Las racecourse, Truith the Boar at the Millenium Coastal Path Nar Llanelli. He also has work in the Lion Street Gallery in Hay on Wye.
Are there other artists who inspire you?
“The artist Mitch Cleal who runs the Workshop Wales gallery has been a great inspiration to me over the years. The gallery was started by his father John – a prolific artist throughout the area, and it’s great to see much of his work in and around Fishguard.”
What do you do when you aren’t working?
“ In my spare time I like to relax by spending time exploring with the family and surfing the breaks of Pembrokeshire such as Freshwater West and Broadhaven South”.
What are you working on at the moment?
“ I’m about to start on a new Bull project in the next month or so which will take up 3 months. I’m also exploring the idea of working in some new media. Have a look on my website to find out more.”
To see some of Chris Carnes beautiful work, go to his website : www.chriscranefineart.com or find him on his Facebook page.