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Sean Henry – scale model of unique sculpture

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The Brief:
Sean Henry, a world-renowned sculptor, was commissioned to create the UK’s first permanent offshore sculpture for the Northumbrian coastal village of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, as it underwent a major development project to bring the once famous beach and sea front back to, and beyond, its former glory. Between March and September 2007, the £10million project involved recharging the beach with 500,000 tonnes of new sand, building a new breakwater in the bay and improving the promenade.

Sean’s creation, “Couple”, has been the culmination of three years work and comprises two 5-metre tall bronze figures; a man and a woman. Created in a boatyard in Liverpool, a special paint normally reserved for oil tankers was used on the figures. On the evening of 17th August 2007 they were placed on a steel pier 15 metres long and 7.5 metres in height on the new breakwater 350 metres out into Newbiggin Bay. Looking wistfully out to sea, at high tide the wave’s crash against the legs of the sculpture’s platform.

The Solution:
Before Sean could begin work on the full-size bronze sculptures, he needed a way of visualising his design in 3-dimensional form in a more manageable size. He also had to present his proposal to Wansbeck District Council; the main client behind the commissioning of the full sized “Couple”, and members of the South East Northumberland Public Art & Design Initiative (INSPIRE); an organisation which encourages the involvement of art and artists with local communities throughout Northumberland.

Having initially produced 5ft models of “Couple” in plaster, Sean commissioned 3T RPD Ltd to build various sized scale model versions of the figures in a white Nylon material using their plastic Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology.  However, the Selective Laser Sintering process is driven by the use of 3D CAD data, which Sean didn’t have. Therefore, 3T scanned the 5ft models generating accurate CAD data that was an exact replica of the sculptures. Rather than relying upon a CAD Engineer to copy the design and then translate it into a 3D CAD model, this scanning process exactly mimicked the artist’s design without creating any opportunities for errors or misinterpretations

The Result:
3T then built 50 sets of 20cm high scale versions in plastic AM in October 2006, some of which Sean hand-painted and used to show Wansbeck District Council. Mounted upon a wooden scale model of the platform, it illustrated how the completed work of art would look. Many of the remaining unpainted plastic AM models were sold privately through various galleries as limited edition pieces of art.

A further batch of 100 20cm high scale models were produced in plastic AM and mounted on Perspex bases to echo the pier platform. They were numbered 1 to 100 as limited edition pieces, boxed and given to a variety of people involved in the main project, with Wansbeck District Council purchasing editions 1-70 for their own distribution.

Extra bits:
3T also produced a one-off scale model at 46cm high.The two plastic AM figurines were silicone-moulded prior to being cast in bronze as a limited edition of nine sets. Having made a few alterations in the wax, these bronze figures will be available for purchase through many of Sean’s art dealers in the UK, USA, Holland and Sweden.

Sean took his inspiration for “Couple” from the scale of the breakwater. He decided the project should have three distinct elements: the tapered steel pier platform and the two figures. He always wanted to have more than one figure to reflect a shared experience and intends to create an air of mystery by keeping the figures anonymous, looking out to sea with their backs to the shore. Not only is the artwork likely to be a hit with tourists, it also looks set to make a big splash in the art world. “This spectacular setting will provide a unique context for Henry’s work, creating a wonderful platform for what, in spite of its size, is an intimate sculpture which speaks to all of us,” said Peter Osborne, Director of Osborne Samuel Gallery in London.

Sean has also been commissioned to work on a new project with the Standard Chartered Bank in London, and is currently working on nine bronze figures to be installed in a new 5-storey atrium at the Bank’s new headquarters in London, which is due for completion in 2008. The finished atrium will include a 1.4m high bronze version of “Couple”. In order to visualise the concept and present the proposed design for the new atrium to the Bank, a 7cm high plastic AM version of “Couple” was used in a unique 1:20 scale model of the new atrium. The white Nylon pair were hand-painted by Sean and fitted into the model on a wall mounted plinth, prior to the work’s presentation to the client. Sean is working with 3d scanning again on this project and is excited about the potential of both the scanning and sintering processes, especially as a starting point for metal casting.

Related links:
Sean Henry
Newbiggin Bay project