Space in medal art

Cast bronze
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Though a medal is an art form expressed primarily by sculptural means, it is more than just a sculpture. It embraces both a material shape and the space into which it has been melted. Being in possession of its own allotment of space, it is an independent art form which, like a painting or a print, may function without a surroundings specially designed for it.

In a traditional medal, a realistic image is superimposed on a flat background which is a symbolic expression of space. This fact accounts for the reduction of the traditional medal into an object of applied art which is about decorating objects in one way ore other. The contemporary medal does not fit in with this category. It is to sculpture what poetry is to literature, a small form with a great emotional load in which artists may freely express themselves.

In medallic art I am primarily interested in relation between an object and the surrounding space. To me space is not abstract, but palpable and omnipresent; it forces its way among the forms of the material world, tightly filling the gaps between them, and changing according to their shape and position. Thus understood, space may be expressed in a concrete sculptured form bringing out each element of the representation, yet quite otherwise than in traditional medals. It takes an active part in the process of construction of a relief because it is not sculptured separately, afterwards, in the background, but from the very beginning the emergence of the image depends entirely on the sculptured space. Rather than being merely created, it is in essence creative.

What is represented in my medals (human figures, objects, etc.) is not superimposed on the background but emerges from the surrounding space, full of light and air. In a sense my medals act as a frame of real space, transformed into a two-sided relief. Concavities opening outwards like a hyperbola make it possible for the infinite space surrounding the medal to penetrate the relief and be united with the space contained in it. Thus a medal, though confined within its edges, becomes an open spatial form.
Ewa Olszewska-Borys, Warshaw, Poland
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