Synthethic foam as an alternative medium for sculpture

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Principal limitations of sculpture materials as far as synthetic sculpture is concerned are those of manipulation and the final product. This is because sculpture is both a process and a product. To alleviate these hindrances, the researcher delved into the possible way of using synthetic foam as an alternative medium for sculpture. Wood, Cement, clay, Plaster of Paris and plasticine form the bulk of traditional materials in vogue. They may be monotonous and may demand certain treatments to acquire their final values. As a result, synthetic foam needs to be exploited. The preoccupation of the researcher was to find out how foam can be used as a good material for sculpture. In this study, foam is employed in modelling, casting, carving, construction and assemblage. The techniques used for traditional materials could also be applied to foam. The use of foam will help to reduce cost in the creative process and production. In this report, the researcher tried to explain in detail the various processes that foam can undergo in a systematic manner. This will enable others to use the report as a means of further research without much difficulty. In the light of this, the project was conducted to experiment on foam as an alternative material for sculpture. The study employed both latex and synthetic foams as substitutes for the conventional materials used in sculpture. Images for the casting were modelled and piece-moulds taken in a mixture of ordinary potland cement and sand. Plaster of Paris was used as the first layer before mortar was added for reinforcement. Positive casts were made by laying pieces of foam in their respective moulds, using white wood glue. The separate parts work were left to dry thoroughly, removed, joined and painted finally. Carvings were done by the use of sharp tools of different sizes and later shaved with a pair of scissors to have even surfaces. Different textures were also created as a result of the carving tools used. Among the works employed by the researcher was modelling of a semi colossal image of a giraffe. Firstly, an armature was constructed by the use of iron rods, iron mesh and binding wires to reinforce the whole figure. Paper straps were cut, smeared with white glue and used to cover the skeletal frame-work before the foam was mounted on it using the leather glue as bonding agent. Soldering iron was used to cover the joints of the foam straps before acrylic paint was applied. Due to the plain cuts of the foams, construction and assemblage were done without much difficulty. Measurements were taken and knives were used to cut the sizes and leather glue used to join the parts. Other images or figures were later executed through the same techniques as above and finally painted with either acrylic or gold finger to enhance their beauty. The results of this project are lightweight, inexpensive, transportable, cast, modelled, carved, constructed and assembled sculptures. Thirteen pieces of works were made by the use of foam through the various techniques and processes in sculpture. The project is a relief for sculptors who find it difficult to acquire and work with the conventional materials for sculpture. Problems encountered have been discussed with their solutions and recommendations enumerated so as to guide future users of the approach and methods employed to arrive at the final project.
A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Master of Arts degree, 2001