ELEMENTS OF STYLE:
The Sculpture of Clayton Thiel
As a sculptor interpreting the figure in both its inner and outer manifestations, Clayton Thiel states that he is always staring at people and examining the various interpretations of the human form in art. Then he makes new things that come from this looking. Years of figure drawing provided a foundation for his working process. This extends itself into basic coil-building of clay sculpture and informs him as he carves and chisels into stone to reveal the figure inside.
Stylistically, Thiel works both “abstractly” and in ways influenced by the elemental realism of classical Greek sculpture as well as the artistic traditions of the Middle East and Asia. A keen awareness of his own inner direction and inclination results in work with certain qualities of aliveness, potent psychology and conscious symbolism. Above all, the process of transformation is always present.
Important components of his sculpture are technical contrast and the elemental. Juxtapositions between smooth and rough surfaces, light and dark, are superbly and subtly applied. The basic elements of water, air, earth and fire are present and are transmitted strongly to the viewer. When encountering his tall totemic figures, for instance, the viewer is startled: the figures stand confrontational and stoic like alert sentinels; somehow Egyptian in their timeless-ness, they evoke powerful responses.
Thiel’s more recent work has become “simpler,” though deceptively so. Once imbuing his heads and figures with more obvious narrative elements, often composed of symbolic objects or story-telling hints to be interpreted, his sculptures now ask only to be examined for themselves.
The artist himself has something to say about his latest series of powerfully evocative gigantic-scale clay heads: “I know that I have been greatly inspired by being with my infant grandson. His face reminds me of all styles and expressions, possessing the ideas, feelings and meanings in all my work so far. This wonderful new human being, still completely innocent, inspires me to work with the very beginnings of clay, two domes joined together, that eventually become these heads. My intention still is to create an elemental, archetypal presence. The repetition of the same powerful shape in differing interpretations, with the addition of color, of forms, of surface contrast, seems to synthesize all formal and informal elements I have pursued in my sculpture.”