This Month in our Artist Showcase we are featuring artist Michael Disley a sculptor of stone who has worked all over the world and completed over a hundred public works all across the UK and Ireland. We wanted to showcase Michael's remarkable career across comercial and public art and share with you some of the things he's been working on recently.
Artist Showcase: Michael Disley
'Tall Pear Tree', Italian Marble on Oak
Tell us about your journey with stone carving?
My journey with stone carving has been long and varied, as a young student at Sunderland.(I discovered the material through a chance encounter with a visiting artist, who name I have sadly forgotten).
I spent three years teaching myself carving with homemade tools and on leaving I went to Chester to learn Stonemasonry and learned to carve ‘properly’..
After a few years here, I studied for a Masters degree in Nottingham and halfway through this course, I won my first sculpture commission at The Leadmill in Sheffield.
What do you find to be the best material to carve with?
Granite is by far the best material for public works as it hardly absorbs any water, so doesn’t age, although the carving is very industrial, involving diamond grinders and polishers through the whole process. Marble is a little softer, and suits the bas-relief tree sculptures I make. Limestone is relatively soft and I enjoy the mallet and chisel work when carving my smaller figurative pieces.
'Snap Time', Normanton
Can you tell us more about working across public art?
I have made well over a hundred public artworks, the majority of which are
in the UK and Ireland. My most recent two large scale pieces sum up my
approach to all of my work.
‘Snap Time’ installed in Normanton in Yorkshire is a celebration of mining.
So many public art pieces about mining emphasise, the sheer drudgery of
the work and the price the miners and their families paid for a life underground. Both of my grandfathers were miners and when offered the commission, I wanted to make a sculpture that reflected the friendships and camaraderie of the job, which underpinned the communities when the
industry was so quickly closed down.
The sculpture depicts two miners enjoying their “Snap” or dinner and
sharing a joke whist sitting back to back. Granite here stands in for coal
rather well I think. Next to the sculpture are two large benches, shaped liked Snap Tins, allowing the people of Normanton to enjoy their snap along side the miners.
Public art is often overlooked and eventually ignored by passers by, and while I accept this, I would like to add, in an unboastful way that my work has been ignored by many millions of people over the years. Having said that, with the advent of instagram, I have been able to see some lovely interaction with my work posted by walkers, hikers and slightly tipsy town centre revellers.
What piece stand out for you?
Another piece which stands out for me is in Drogheda in Southern Ireland. I was commissioned as part of the European Union’s Peace IV programme.
Here a new public square has been developed as a meeting point. St Peter’s square sits between two churches of the same name, one Catholic and one Protestant. I wanted a simple and humorous idea that connected the two churches and suggested a peaceful and friendly future.
The finished sculpture ‘Inspired To Meet’ has two birds, each on top a three metre high granite spire, meeting for a chat, installed just in time for the twentieth anniversary of The Good Friday Agreement in March this year.
‘Inspired to meet’, Drogheda
You've done a lot of travelling throughout your career; Did these experiences inspire your practice?
Over the past forty years, I have, carved stone in Zimbabwe, living and working with some of the great first-generation Shona carvers.
I went to Japan to carve marble and tried to absorb some of the controlled simplicity of the courtyard gardens I saw there. More recently I spent time in India, carving the hard sandstone in Rajasthan, and in Southern China, working with the the granite carvers of Xiamen. All of these experiences have influenced both the way I work and the types
of materials I use.
Carving in Jaipur
Michael's work ranges across prints, trees and small carvings which all have a connection to the larger scale works and act as ideas for future larger pieces
'I try to draw, without s sculpture in mind but I always end up thinking how the image would work in granite, stone or marble, I seem to be stuck with that...'
We have a beautiful selection of Michael's works available in the gallery now or you can shop his collection online below!
*Michael also hosts workshops from his studio in Yorkshire - if you would like to find out more, click on the picture link (left) to head to his website.