Gripping ‘Horse Problem’ Sculpture by Claudia Fontes

One of our horse listeners, Capucine, shared a photo of this sculpture in our Facebook group and I was SO taken with it! Not just the majesty of it, but HOW did artist Claudia Fontes create this startling, ginormous sculpture of a 5 metre tall horse for the Venice Biennale?

The Horse Problem – Claudia Fontes

The size, the scale, the emotional impact, the visceral response which immediately kicked me into narratives of girl/boy-dragon… but also, the logistics of it!

I have painted a fair bit, but not explored sculpture (yet!) and so I immediately wondered, how did she sculpt something that large (without it taking 5 years)?

If the woman is life-size, you can imagine how big the horse is!

Well, turns out that sculpture has evolved just a tad from the time of Michelangelo with his chisel, freeing the figure from within the marble 🙂

From poking around articles and commentaries, I discovered that Claudia started with a maquette – a small-scale sculpture (or can even be a 3-D animation drawing on computer) – of the horse. Which was then scanned and turned into a 3D model by a company in the UK called 3dify:

“The challenge was to scan two people at a quality high enough for them to then be fabricated at life-size, and scan the artist’s maquette of a horse so it could be re-created as a 5 metre tall sculpture.”

Then 3dify sent the scans over to Lola Lipsum, who says:

“The process was to combine different parts of the scans, cleaning up, sculpting missing data, posing, creating new clothes, hair, and correction of the final digital sculpture to the close direction of Claudia Fontes.”

Here are some shots from Lola’s site that illustrate this – look at the difference in the horse’s mane in the first and second picture:

Mane #1 (c) Lola Lipsum
Mane #2 (c) Lola Lipsum

Okay, so now we’ve got really detailed, 3-D scans of exactly what Claudia wants all of the elements of this installation to look like… now how did she actually produce those sculptures??

Well turns out there is something called marble dust filled resin, as we learn in this critique of the installation:

“The sculptural group also comprises various other elements: a ponytailed girl touching the horse’s muzzle, a squatted boy, and various pieces of rock; all made in candid white marble dust filled resin.”

So once you have the 3-D scans in your computer, you can have a CNC company output your models/sculptures in the material you specify – no chisels required! As instructor-extraordinaire David Neat writes:

“Marble dust will not only add strength and weight to resin but also a stone-like coolness when the proportion is high. Marble is commonly available in various particle sizes and the coarser versions can also reproduce some of the surface sparkle of carved marble.”

And by the way, did you know that most slabs of marble, granite etc. used in buildings (or your kitchen) have also had their holes and scrapes filled in with polyester resin? Or that thinner marble sheet for your bathroom feature wall is also backed by a webbing of fiberglass mesh and polyester resin, to give it strength and prevent breakage during shipping? Me neither.

Or perhaps the CNC company outputs a fibreglass model or mold for you, then you continue on from there with the material of your choice. In case, like me, you’re now asking, What is CNC? Well, there are various applications depending on which industry you’re in. But basically, a CNC (computer numeric control) tool or machine is used to cut, carve, or, build up materials in layers (digital fabrication). In terms of this horse sculpture, this picture of one from Aarne will help you understand the process at a glance:

5-Axis CNC Machine (c)

This photo from Lola Lipsum’s site (do take a look at all her photos) shows the scale of this sculpture and how they got it to the exhibition hall:

(c) Lola Lipsum

Aside from enjoying this amazing art installation and the commentary from the Biennale catalogue which reads:

“It suggests that human and animal not remain trapped in the narrative of domination and control that are the only ones that capital has been able to invent.”

Fontes’ work can be read as an open question about the possibilities of reversing colonisation in its multiple manifestations. By highlighting how the destinies of the human and horse species have been intertwined through exploitation from the very moment that horses were domesticated, The Horse Problem offers in a flash, a way to reinterpret history in a different way, a chance to construct an alternative narrative for our future as species.”

I was also thrilled to learn this new way of creating sculptures! I mean, can large-scale sculpture get any more accessible than this?

The exhibition hall itself, the rocks, and the boy crouching behind the woman are all part of this installation by Claudia Fontes (c) Jean Pierre Dalbera via Flikr
Gripping ‘Horse Problem’ Sculpture by Claudia Fontes

2 thoughts on “Gripping ‘Horse Problem’ Sculpture by Claudia Fontes

  • April 10, 2021 at 3:47 am

    Beautiful piece. I know a lot about this piece


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