Gymnastics toes a fine line between sport and art-form. Physically demanding requiring its practitioners to be in top physical condition at the same time its goal is performance. A gymnast must not only execute a complex feat of physicality but do it with flawless elegance.Eleanor Cardozo, an artist and sculptor based in Switzerland, finds the human body to be the most artistically challenging and as a devotee of gymnastics herself, many of her works feature gymnasts as subjects.
Gymnasts caught in the midst of their craft, at crucial moments where the grace of the human form is on full display. Her work has been featured at London’s Westminster Abbey and Heathrow airport in conjunction with the 2012 Summer Olympics and the artist often does commissions for private collections.Cardozo recently spoke with Tuc about her work.
TUC: In your own words, who are you and what do you do?
Eleanor Cardozo: I am a British artist and sculptor living in Switzerland, an ambassador to the Swiss luxury watch brand Bedat & Co, a wife and mother of three and I create beauty.
TUC: A lot of our readers are aspiring artists, do you have any creative routines or rituals you use for inspiration?
Cardozo: I don’t have any rituals or routines but I do get a lot of inspiration from watching gymnastic and dance performances and looking at the anatomy of the human body. I love looking at anything beautiful but mostly the human being.
TUC: When was it that you realized that creating was something you had to do?
Cardozo: From as far back as I can remember I was creating. Always drawing faces and people and making miniature objects like violins and little people for my dolls house. At school I was always more interested in the arts and the only fun part of any project for me was the illustrations. I used to paint the backdrop for school plays and make posters for events. I spent most of my free time in the art room or the gym trying to do back flips on a beam! My parents encouraged all kinds of creativity from playing piano to drawing and sewing, and living in Africa as a child we didn’t have a television,
so we spent our holidays making things.
TUC: What project are you working on now?
Cardozo: I am working on a private commission for an Asian client of the Guardian Angel of the world and I’m collaborating with the International Federation of Gymnastics for a monument for their new Headquarters in Lausanne.
TUC: What’s a memorable response you’ve gotten to a work of yours?
Cardozo: When my 3 and 4 meter (about 10-14 feet) monument gymnasts were showcased at Heathrow T5 and Westminster Abbey for the London 2012 Olympics, complete strangers would contact me through my website to tell me how much they admired the grace and elegance of my work and had felt uplifted when passing them and sent me photos of themselves standing next to them. That was amazing for me. Also when the BBC asked to televise our team GB rhythmic gymnast performing in front of my sculpture at Heathrow T5 and hundreds of travelers stopped to watch, that was a big moment!
TUC: Is there a work you’re most proud of? and Why?
Cardozo: A lot of my most challenging work has never been publicly seen because of confidential agreements with private clients. When I sculpt members of royal families and celebrities, there are a lot of legal formalities which prohibit me from publishing images, some of these are my best pieces, but of my public works, it would have to be POISE from the Olympics. The proportions, the pose and the composition are in perfect harmony and full of grace. The challenge was to make a 500kg gymnast look as though she was poised in mid air, which was technically complicated, but I think it worked!
TUC: Do you have a favorite artist’s tool? Is there something you couldn’t live without in your studio?
Cardozo: Yes there is a small wooden tool made by sculptor Philippe Faraut with a small end and a larger end, beautifully carved to work on detailed areas like the nose, eyes and mouth. I couldn’t sculpt a face without it now. It’s the most perfect design.
TUC: How do you know when a work is finished?
Cardozo: That’s a very good question, especially for me as I am such a perfectionist! Many times my pieces might be more interesting if I left them half done, but I never do. When I first start a figurative work in clay, it looks just like a Giacometti, just a skinny skeleton covered in clay and yet Giacometti is one of the most famous sculptors in the world! The trouble is, I just love the form of the muscles and the subtle curves and lines of a body and a beautiful face, so I sculpt it all! A work is not finished for me until I’m entirely satisfied that it is as perfect as I can get it. Also not many people can do it, so it’s what I’m known for.
TUC: Is there a creative medium you’d like to pursue but haven’t?
Cardozo: I’m not interested in oil painting as I’ve never been good with a brush. I prefer the direct precise workings of a pencil. I’ve worked in almost every medium possible while sculpting, from carving marble to modeling wax, and I’ve drawn with pastels, fine ink pens and charcoal but I’ve never explored airbrush painting and I would be interested in that as I like the graphic finish.
TUC: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten on being creative?
Cardozo: Not to be commercial or compromise a piece because of cost or technical difficulties. It’s quite tempting to create easy pieces to cast which cost much less and are therefore more profitable, but if you don’t stay true to your vision, you will never create real works of art.
Journalist: Peter Segall