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By Mark Pavilons
God's greatest creations won't last forever. Few things do.
But a King artist hopes his bronze sculptures will stand the test of time. Their lifespans may rival that of the ancient wonders.
Brett Davis is an old soul. The owner of Age of Bronze, Davis has been celebrating the human form by making public and commission-based bronze sculptures for more than three decades.
Despite his expertise and worldly knowledge of the masters, he continues to learn and hone his skills.
The life-size pieces involve a long, complex process. It is creation in its simplest form.
He's fascinated with the bronze casting process, particularly that of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Davis said his knowledge of art history and experience working in foundries, arm him with the techniques he needs to create life from lifelessness. Unlike a stone sculptor who unleashes the art from within, Davis has to start from scatch.
He works from photos or sketches and creates a maquette (small-scale model) out of wax and styrofoam. He then enlarges the piece to life-size proportions; makes molds and sends the pieces out for pouring. When they return, he welds them together and fine-tunes his piece. The finishing touches include polishing and applying the appropriate patina. Davis said it takes upwards of nine months from conception to finished product.
Brett is meticulous, not unlike Donatello or Rodin. While every piece is unique, born out of love and passion, Davis pays homage to the past, and the renowned works by the greats. The past, and present come together in a unique celebration of form, style and substance.
Davis stresses he's not copying previous works, but rather borrowing tried and true methods and bringing bronze sculpting to a modern level.
He specializes in the design, manufacturing, installation and maintenance of custom and commissioned bronze works designed specifically for interior and exterior environments. Brett has worked with many prominent landscaping firms integrating bronze sculptures and fountains into their unique designs and has won many public art competitions in Ontario.
“The bigger the better,” he says with a smile. Perhaps something that rivals The Artemision Zeus (or Poseidon).
Davis doesn't just conjure up classic Greek torsos or busts. He's expanded his repertoire to include architectural and abstract figures. He combines art and architecture in his own style, one that has made him a sought-after artist.
Davis is putting the finishing touches on a life-size soldier, a private commission that pays tribute to a family member. Davis has a great deal of responsibility to ensure the result is not only pleasing, but accurate and detailed, down to the insignia and buttons on his uniform.
His renowned Roy Bonisteel sculpture presented many challenges. Bonisteel was a Canadian journalist and host of the CBC Television program Man Alive, from 1967 to 1989. Bonisteel's family asked Davis to create a seated Roy with an open book. Davis had to work from photos and videos, and the family wanted a version of Roy in his 60s. He died at age 83 in 2013.
A committee was formed that was headed by Angela Smylie and included Roy's daughter Lesley to create the statue and tribute garden that was realized through donations.
Davis met with Lesley to pick up some family traits to incorporate into the work. The sculpture now sits on a bench, at the memorial garden at Trent Port Marina, overlooking the shoreline of the Bay of Quinte. Thousands of visitors annually sit next to Roy, perhaps pondering the meaning of life.
In Lloydtown, Davis's rebel soldier stands as a reminder of the infamous Lloydtown Rebellion of 1837.
Davis is passionate about art and history. He's intrigued by the past and the knowledge ancient craftsmen possessed. He learns from the best, and had the opportunity to examine historic pieces to see how they did things thousands of years ago.
Speaking to him, he freely offers up insights and details you can uncover in no other way. He's a fountain of information, a lexicon of knowledge.
He urges all art-lovers to speak to the artists themselves if they get a chance. The art will take on a whole new meaning after even a brief conversation with the creator.
In work such as his, Davis pointed out he has to really believe in himself and exude confidence. A mistake, or a slight deviation off course, can be costly at any stage of the process. For him, he feels every bend, every curve. He sees deep into the soul of the sculpture.
Brett is a patina specialist and uses various techniques to accentuate the forms and create a sense of age. Age of Bronze specializes in the research and development of patinas, formulated for historical and contemporary patina restoration of sculptures and architectural features, as well as general patina services for sculptors, art foundries, galleries and art institutions.
Brett's job isn't done when the piece is finished and installed on-site.
He's also a specialist in metal conservation. The pieces need maintenance and care, or they deteriorate and take on that weathered, greenish tinge. Brett regularly revisits pieces to add a little TLC to keep them intact.
Davis is also contracted to restore historic bronzes. He's travelled the world and studied corrosion and ways to combat it. He's worked on historical public bronze monuments, sculptures and architectural features in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. In 2017 he revitalized two pieces at Queen's Park that are more than 100 years old.
Davis loves the challenges each new piece brings. Every project is a new beginning.
Artists, he admits, tend to be dreamers. In his workshop, he leaves the business portion of his company behind, and concentrates on his passion.
He hopes to amass a collection of his own works for a show in the coming years.
Davis looks great for his age. And his cast bronze “children” look even better.
For more, visit www.ageofbronze.ca or email Brett at email@example.com
Excerpt: God’s greatest creations won’t last forever. Few things do. But a King artist hopes his bronze sculptures will stand the test of time. Their lifespans may rival that of the ancient wonders. Brett Davis is an old soul. The owner of Age of Bronze, Davis has been celebrating the human form by making public and commission-based bronze sculptures for more than three decades.
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