Young sculptor Elliot Channer is helping the observer to see birds and animals from a fresh perspective.
Elliot Channer started his route to artistic success via the internet. Not something Sir Alfred Munnings had recourse to. But his sculptures are decidedly tangible. Janet Menzies meets Elliot Channer.
ELLIOT CHANNER, SPORTING ARTIST
It is probably time we revised our notions of the artistic life. We may cherish the picture of the artist or sculptor high in his garret but today’s creative spirits are more likely to be found in an internet café. Certainly trawling the web brought animal sculptor Elliot Channer the two big breaks that kick-started his career.
“I knew I wanted to be an artist but I don’t come from an artistic background,” he explains. “But my grandfather had been a stonemason and that looked interesting, so I went online and started looking for courses in stone masonry and came across this one at the City and Guilds of London Art School in architectural stone carving. I was lucky to find it because it is the only course of its type in the country and they only take a few students. But with the help of some bursaries, I managed to get on to it.”
The carving element of the course captured Elliot Channer’s imagination. “I realised I wanted to sculpt bronzes and so I set up my workshop straightaway. I contacted other sculptors to ask for advice and found a wonderful bronze foundry in Leicestershire, Le Blanc Fine Art, run by Lloyd Le Blanc, a sculptor himself. He’s been a bit of a mentor for me, helping me to understand what is achievable when casting bronze. I try to get a lot of movement in my pieces and so often an animal will only have one or two legs touching the ground, which means you have to be careful to get the balance right so the final sculpture doesn’t keep toppling over.”
Elliot Channer’s wonderfully expressive polo pony executing a turn, his leaping wild boar or running goose all bear witness to his having listened carefully to Le Blanc’s advice. “You have to take advice and criticism on board,” says Channer, “and you learn from it. Having got my first major exhibition already, at the International Art Fair, everybody says it has come quickly.”
Modestly, he doesn’t put this down to outstanding talent. “I think there is a lot of luck involved and definitely persistence. I found my agent through another big internet trawl and she has been a big help to me, especially finding me the opening at Carina Haslam’s gallery, which led to the latest exhibition.”
When pressed, Channer admits, “I think I probably do have some talent. I don’t want to do predictable things with my sculpture. When you look at a lot of wildlife and sporting sculpture, the pieces aren’t really making you think about the animal or seeing it from a new perspective. That’s why I chose to sculpt a puffin. Everybody does birds but I hadn’t seen a puffin before. You don’t get many in Staffordshire”.
“I want to stick with British animals and to concentrate on ones that don’t get much attention. I also want to do more horses. They are a traditional subject but there is still a lot of room for being original.”
One of his first works, a bronze-resin pheasant, stands out from the run-of-the-foundry “table decoration” pheasant. There is something earthy about the bird. The heavy chasing of the feathers, especially the separation of the tail feathers, looks convincing. This is a pheasant that a gun would recognise walking out of the cover in the pouring rain one January morning. And the idiosyncratic, almost ugly, little puffin exudes quirky character.
Of all the arts, sculpture has particularly high overheads. “Other sculptors have warned me that it takes a few years of struggling but I’m lucky that my parents are giving me a lot of support,” Elliot Channer says. “I’ll see where I am in the next couple of years but I do feel confident of making a career.”
The next project is an ambitious plan to reverse the traditional Grand Tour by taking the work of young, British sculptors to Florence. “A foundry in Florence asked me if I would like to exhibit,” explains Elliot Channer, “so now I am looking for someone else like me at the beginning of their career to share the exhibition.” How about trying the internet?
Elliot Channer’s work will be exhibited by Carina Haslem Art from 14 to 17 May at the 20/21 International Art Fair, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7.