Carl Roberts | Sculpting mediums and themes

Mediums & Themes


Carl has produced remarkable sculpture from objects that people would walk past every day without a second glance. These may be commonplace objects … but Carl has the eye to see beyond the ordinary – the ability to uncover what turn out to be fantastic mediums. He has discovered beauty in old bones from the veld, washed up stones and commonplace soft corals from the sea, spilt bronze discarded by the caster, and driftwood from our rivers.

Carl says: “I prefer natural mediums like wood, stone, and bone that I find in places I know. But it is not a rule. There have been lots of other mediums – anything from nylon strap to the spilt bronze from the caster. I often find those natural mediums when I am on holiday, and they are often in those places where I spent my youthful years. The mediums, stone, bone, wood and bronze are imbued with history, memories and feelings.”

It is however not any stone, bone, piece of coral or wood that Carl uses. He says: “I look for shape, texture, colour. Usually my preference is for something that is organic and a bit messed up.” As “Perfect order is as hostile to innovation as total disorder” (“Arrival of the Fittest” – Andreas Wagner). Disorder like the Rorschach test (ink blot test) can help to fire the imagination and explore what lies in the subconscious.


Bleached bones transform into ships or mythical trees. Stone pieces morph into timeless faces or delicate figures. Wooden pieces – often driftwood –.are ordered into pleasing forms. The inherent disorder sometimes forces Carl to sculpt things that are not “natural”. Often that’s the thing that makes the works interesting and expressive. The problems presented by the material, and the solutions found by the artist, are bound together in a dance, a struggle, which shapes the finished product: a sculpture, that is exciting and thought-provoking.

He remarks “It turns out that, like most artists, my work is autobiographical and reflects the society and times we live in.

This is generally unintentional and unknowingly done. The symbols and images were not obvious to me. It is only later, and with the repetition of images, that I realised that there was more to them.

Now, it is clear that the Icarus and flying figures relate to my flying, crash-and-burn father. Trees are a reflection of where I live: a wooded garden, and a symbol of growth and a resilient life force. Boats and whale hunts are images that are rooted in the many sea journeys made either to flee disaster, or in pursuit of better days. It also shows my love of the sea, and is a symbol for man’s journey through time.”

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” - Michelangelo

Carl feels that the “unintentionally and unknowing” is a better process than preconception. He wants to avoid self-deception – to avoid being put into a cerebral aesthetic straight jacket. Carl seeks to express himself honestly.
Making art through “accidents”, irrational connections, the images suggested by the medium … this is not a new approach to art.

“I don’t have a clue. Ideas are simply starting points. I can rarely set them down as they come to my mind. As soon as I start to work, others well up in my pen. To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing… When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head. What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas.”
– Picasso

“The sculptures I have made have a connection to my life and the world I live in … even if at the time of making they were incomprehensible to me.”

This is the way Carl’s story is told.

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