Benjamin Storch


Portrait of Benjamin StorchBenjamin Storch image1Benjamin Storch image2
Moebius Strip, Benjamin Storch
Benjamin Storch image 4


Sculptor and jeweller Benjamin Storch combines his skill in metalworking with an in-depth knowledge of mathematical plotting and CAD applications. He hand-forges beautifully curving abstract forms often created from mathematical formula or exploring the principles of anticlastic form. ‘For the past ten years my work has been focused on the creation of sheet metal forms based on dynamic “orbital” curves inspired by imagery from dynamical systems in physics and nature,’ he says.

Comments

You’ve studied a range of metalworking techniques, including swordsmithing, silversmithing, coppersmithing and jewellery; which material and technique do you prefer?

I was initially quite fascinated by antique metalwork and the gemstones in jewellery making also attracted me, but once I started working with metal I really liked the way you could transform it through the forging process. I sometimes think that it would be more suitable to work with a softer material like clay, but metal can resist gravity as it is so strong and so is more suitable for the forms I make – and I enjoy working with it. I like working with silver but it is too expensive to use for large-scale forms; different metals are appropriate for different scales. I also like copper and the different patination effects you can achieve with it.

What other materials have you used in your work?

I have just made a sculpture for Everest Community College (commissioned by The Making) in stainless steel. The sculpture had to be weather-proof and vandal-proof and needed to be very strong. I looked into making it in a softer material and then chrome plating it but no one wanted to do it so I plunged myself into working in stainless steel. It’s a very rigid material, although it becomes much more manageable after it’s been annealed (which I had to do in a friend's Raku kiln). As I don’t have a press yet, I resorted to using a sledge-hammer to form the metal which worked well. I took two weeks just to polish it, but I’m really glad that I did, as it is fascinating how the polished surface reflects the surrounding environment. Because of the curvature of the form there are really interesting distortions – the environment is reflected upside down on one side and the right way up on the other.

Your work ranges from intricately formed jewellery to much larger public sculpture; what scale do you prefer to work on?

I definitely prefer the larger scale. You have a better empathy for the curvature and it’s more tactile on a larger scale. On smaller forms one can appreciate the intricacy of the work, but they don’t have the same tactile, physically engaging qualities as pieces 1 – 2 metres high.

Where do you get the inspiration for the forms of your sculpture?

Initially I was interested in geometry and geometrical shapes that were shifting or rotating. Then I came across diagrams that were physically generated by compound motion like the interaction of two pendulums or the paths of irregular orbits. These were connected to the study of dynamic systems and ways of modelling more chaotic behaviour. These dynamic processes meant something to me – I was sympathetic to them. They somehow related to my internal perceptions of emotions. Maybe encouraged by Yoga, Tai Chi and Dance.I also spent several years researching anticlastic form, at the Birmingham School of Jewellery. Anticlastic form is the opposite of traditional silversmithing forms in which hollow vessel-like (synclastic) forms are made. In anticlastic forming you stretch out the edges of the metal and compress the centre to make a saddle-shaped anticlastic surface - this is related to minimal surfaces in mathematics. It is the dynamic aspect of this uncommon type of curvature that has inspired me in my work for several years.

What role do computers play in your work?

As the surfaces of my sculptures are twisting it is hard to visualise them so it helps if I create models on the computer. I sometimes create real models but the computer gives me the greatest freedom – I make drawings and then realise them on the computer. I also use mathematical programmes or equations to generate ideas. For the Moebius Strip I made for Everest Community College I used a computer to generate the form and visualise all the stages of the forming process. The Moebius Strip is a special twisting surface named after the 19th-century mathematician August Ferdinand Moebius who first defined it in 1858.

How do you see your work developing?

I don’t feel that I have exhausted these anticlastic forms yet, although I’m still interested in going back to more angular geometric forms. I am not sure about going back to figurative work, maybe. I wouldn’t rule out functional work, but I am fairly obsessed with what I do – I’m happy just to create abstract forms and have enjoyed them for what they are. There are actual dynamic processes that artists work with like weather systems or water and I would like to explore these possibilities. I admire the work of Anish Kapoor.