GARETH KNOWLES | Profile
At college it was said by my tutors that I possessed ‘phenomenal spatial awareness’; of course, I only pretended to understand exactly what they may have meant with such a statement, but it was just the encouragement needed by someone both eager and young in order to believe that it was the journey I wanted to further explore.
I had always loved films and, in particular, those with ‘special effects’, like the ‘Indiana Jones’ movies, and, of course, ‘Star Wars’, so upon leaving education in the early 1980s, I began sculpting with an aim to model-making within the film industry. As a starting point, I felt it was a good idea to work on sculptures depicting recognizable forms or characters within the popular culture of the time, and I began to design and produce wax candles of such stars as Boy George and Michael Jackson, which sold rather well.
Aged 17, my family then moved to London (yeah, we did move around quite a bit!) and this then brought me closer, at least physically, to the film industry. By then I was producing a range of wax candles with similar themes in popular culture and these also sold really well in such places as Camden Market, Covent Garden and various retail outlets in London which led me to become a ‘freelance model-maker originator’ and secured work for such esteemed clients as ‘Garrards Crown Jewellers’, ‘Crockfords Casino’, ‘Digital Pictures’, ‘Liza Bruce Fashion’, ‘Asylum Models’ and ‘David Morris Jewellers’. I was then commissioned to produce various sculptures for the five-star Elias Beach Hotel in Limasol, Cyprus where I remained for two blissful years before going back to London.
Although I loved the quiet beauty of Cyprus, and it positively ignited my imagination, I found myself yearning for the energy and the culture of London once more. Furthermore, whilst I was in Cyprus a sculpture that I had earlier completed entitled ‘Polo Suite’ had been sold by The Sladmore Gallery in London, one of the worlds greatest and leading galleries with over 140 years experience in supplying fine-art sculpture.
From there my career really took flight and, thankfully, my feet have hardly touched the ground since. In 1991 I produced ‘The Rhino’ for the Sladmore and I soon developed a wonderful relationship with them, as well as gaining a positive reputation, bringing with it more commissions including ‘The Portland Trust Panels’ and ‘The Mercury Globe’ – all of which can be viewed on the website.
In 1992 I met my hero, Mr. Ray Harryhausen, the Oscar winning film Director responsible for such classics as ‘Jason and the Argonauts’, ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘The Beast from 20, 000 Fathoms’. Ray and I met whilst I was working in the Atelier Foundry in Hartley Whitney on a sculpture depicting a hawk and a houbara that had been commissioned by Prince Faisel Al Bin Saud - now a keen collector of my work! I had always been in great awe of Ray’s work, and I truly believed he deserved the reputation as the grandmaster of special effects within the pre-digital era.
Ray has a great fascination with birds of prey and, when he saw what is now titled, obviously, ‘The Hawk and the Houbara’ he liked that I had ‘mastered the intensely intricate form of the subject’ and that I ‘brought art to life in capturing everything those birds stood for’ – these are Ray’s words, not mine, but you can read his full statement in the ‘Livingstone’ page on the site, as well as view the movie of the story of said piece.
I was greatly inspired by Ray, and the fact that he loved my work was humbling, exciting and inspirational, giving me the encouragement I needed to produce ‘the Livingstone’. However, from my first meeting with Ray, it would take a whole twelve years to pass from the Livingstone sculpture being a mere idea until it became a reality in its final glory.
I am also glad to say that a mutual respect and heartfelt friendship blossomed between Ray and myself, due to the many years we spent producing the ‘Livingstone’. Commissioned by The National Trust, it was finally unveiled in April 2004, and it is sited at The David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, Scotland. It was Harryhausen’s idea to create this monumental sculpture showing Dr. David Livingstone being attacked alongside his two African guides by a man-eating lion (incidentally, Ray is married to Livingstone’s great granddaughter, hence his keen interest in ‘the explorer, geographer and philanthropist’). The bronze sculpture stands at one and a half times life-size, and weighs in at over a colossal ten ton.
For me, the narrative in the sculpture can almost be heard, so great is the impact upon seeing it for the first time, and I believe it to be one of my proudest achievements thus far. I now employ a classical approach to my work, believing art should be something that is not only instantly recognizable, but perhaps more importantly, understandable. Furthermore, I also consider the creation of art to be an addiction.
I had set up life and studio in Ireland with my ever loving, and long suffering, wife and kids, where we all spent a decade growing, and where-in I also cultivated my work as a sculptor, including spending over four years in the actual construction of ‘the Livingstone’.
However, over a year ago, we moved lock, stock, barrel, dogs, and the kiln to Spain for a warmer climate and, of course, the oranges. In between sampling the vineyards, learning Spanish (slowly), sunning by the pool, reading the hundreds of books that I missed over the years (not even the dyslexia can hold me back!), I now find myself with a new studio doing what I do best.
Have a scroll around the website and see what you think for yourself. My work comes in all sizes and in various media, from bronze to ceramics to silver. Whether it is of your favourite niece or a dolphin in full spin, two feet tall or sixty meters wide, to capture a moment in time, or to present a precious gift that will last forever, get in touch to discuss your requirements - everything is considered with no piece being too big or too small.
And, sure I love to talk!