When Llangrannog based sculptor Sebastien Boyesen (left) presented his design for a Memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of the Miners who died in the Six Bells Colliery disaster to his Client, Six Bells Communities First, they commissioned him straight away.
Sebastien explains, “I knew when I was presenting my initial proposal that it felt absolutely right. I had no idea what other designs had been presented but I knew I wanted it to be “human-like” so people didn’t have to negotiate the arty side; I just wanted them to feel an emotional contact with the sculpture. I wanted people to be able to walk up it and commune with it. The Litmus test for any piece of art is that it has to move you or it hasn’t worked and I think the Miner conveys this for a lot of people.
Although it was always going to be a figure, it was initially going to be made out layers of the names of those who died but it would have been too difficult to read; then it was going to have a mesh skin but the final metamorphosis was the sliced layers that was actually chosen by the Community Group as their preferred technique.”
It’s these layers that give the figure its incredible ghostly appearance from afar and that gradually solidify as you get closer making the Miner appear even more life-like. It will make you catch your breath.
The amazing journey of creation of the sculpture was televised by BBC Wales, and sadly the team ran out of time to attach the arms before the unveiling. “We were devastated,” admits Sebastien, “we had been working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week; what wasn’t shown on TV, was me and my right hand man Simon actually wept in each other’s arms as we realised it just wasn’t safe to keep going. We went home and slept for a week and then the arms were attached easily and safely on our next attempt. It was definitely the right decision and people were very supportive; they knew how hard we had tried.”
The likeable sculptor continues, “My father was also a sculptor and worked as an assistant for Picasso in the 1950’s. I literally grew up in my father’s workshop and could weld by the age of ten. The house was always full of sculpted work, artists and poets, all interesting people. My father always encouraged my abilities and whilst my Mother was a music teacher, so we all learnt to play an instrument, it was the freedom of drawing that I fell in love with. My father died when I was 18 and soon after I found a letter from Picasso’s agent saying that I was very talented and Mr Picasso wished me well. My father had sent him some of the pictures I had drawn. I didn’t know until he died. It was a real epiphany for me as I was just about to start Art College. I took it very seriously and spent three years doing life drawing, learning to draw and sculpt figures and whilst I can appreciate all the contemporary stuff I know what I really love.”
“One of the things I’d love to do is create sculptures of pollen and seed heads enlarged a million times to show off their sculptural forms. I have always loved looking at Nature and scaling it up, like the incredible work of German naturalist and artist’s Ernst Haeckel. A pollen grain enlarged a million times would only be about 3 metres across. They would need to be in a garden, maybe at Chelsea Flower Show. It would be a tribute to Nature; Nature as an engineer is so inspiring you only have to look at a fern frond for example. It would be a dream to do but I would need to be commissioned!”
Many thanks to Patrick Olsen (The Guardian) for photos of the Miner displayed above.