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Seamless Sculpting by Robert Onnes

[Published on July 14, 2024]

After years of manipulating electricity, Robert Onnes has methodically honed his talent in giving life to cold and sharp surfaces, which yield powerfully animated figures of copper and plate steel. 2006 served as a launching point for Onnes who taught himself how to craft numerous representations of earth-bound kiwis with elevation drawings and plasma cutter. On one hand, the large variety was influenced by the pursuit of his artistic voice while a dream of emotionless transition and exploration fueled his motivation to interpret the pensive kiwis.

Skua (2014) is the most recent example of how two seabirds are effortlessly portrayed with a technical suavity. At a glance, one bird seems overpowering as it swoops and summons another but the longer one gazes, one cannot help but circle around the elegant sculpture to determine if the two are friends or foes. Close (2012) and Doubt Dogma (2011) are distinct examples of the artist’s evolving fascination with relationships between humans with an underlying contemplation of romance, belief systems and hierarchy. Helen & Hana (2010) is a towering reiteration of the dialogue taking place between two beings but this sculpture’s movement from one outdoor gallery space to another solidifies the significance of work by Onnes.

2013 proved to be a stimulating year of transition for Onnes with the acquisition of The Factory at 333 Midland in Highland Park, Michigan. This revitalization project affirmed the artist’s vision of independence and brilliance in the face of unique circumstances—a state of being he admires in and around the city of Detroit. In the midst of his American venture, Onnes created Bear (2013) to expound his admiration for the resolute energy of Detroit.

Seamless and careful uses of liver of sulfur and ferric nitrate, among other patina techniques, emphasize originality in work by Onnes while he interprets dynamics of nature and social engagement. From the gleaming textures of mussels and embossed butterflies to enormously sophisticated steel faces reaching for the heavens of the New Zealand sky, Onnes endlessly unites nature’s gracefulness with metal’s stability.

Click here to access the portfolio of Robert Onnes.

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