Philip Hearsey: Beyond open space

Architerior spoke to Philip Hearsey, a sculptor who draws inspiration from the ocean and nature to create non-figurative sculptures made of sand-cast bronze.

Where do you live / practice? 

I live and work in Herefordshire on the very edge of England, almost in Wales.  It is a remote part on the edge of the Black Mountains, the eastern end of The Brecon Beacons. I love this border landscape and the sense of place.  It is very slow to change but I also love the sea that is constantly and ever changing the land it touches.

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How did your art career start?

I didn’t have a formal career path and much of what I know is self-taught.  Although I did attend Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts and wanted to be a painter I spent most of my working life in the field of construction, furniture design and making, architecture and interiors.

I never lost touch with the practical aspects of what I was doing, keeping a workshop where I could experiment with materials, processes and possibilities.  This practical understanding of the materials I worked with, and still work with, has proved invaluable in the creative development of my work.

I combined many aspects of what I do now with my work but it was not until about 2000 that I started seriously making sculpture and spending less and less time on architecture.

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When did you know that you were meant to be working with art?

In my early teens I knew I wanted a practical life, but I had no real idea except that being an “artist” was very appealing.  I have never had a life plan so I have taken things as they come which adds to the daily adventure.


Can you describe your art style for us?  

I work with sand-cast bronze creating non-figurative sculpture.  I am intrigued by simple objects and the way that others react to such objects in a universal way. The act of making is to me all-consuming and very satisfying.

The surface of bronze very easily turns towards verdigris and blues come quite naturally.  I have become very experienced with patination [or oxidisation] which is always exciting and a combination of control and chance.  Now I am starting to use acrylic paints as a colourwash or to vary the colours available from patination.

For more than thirty years I was involved, one way or the other, with interiors and it is inevitable that this influenced the way I think.  Although a hands-on approach and the satisfaction of actual making now dominate my life I cannot help but see sculptures in an interior context.

Most of my sculptures are domestic in scale and intended for the interiors of homes, offices, hotels and yachts.

For years I loved wood and now I love bronze as well. They are both materials with special qualities to be wrought into physical objects. The two are in many ways similar but the role each plays in achieving the same end is very different.


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What’s the hardest part of being an artist/sculptor? 

Unpredictability and rejection.

What’s the best thing about being an artist/sculptor?

Unpredictability and approval.  I like to work at my own pace.

What does art and sculpture mean to you? 

It is my life. My eyes are are always open to what I see as a source of inspiration.

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Where have you mainly exhibited your artwork? Can you mention a few exhibitions or moments in your art career that have been extra important to you?

A lot of galleries across the UK show my work and I still believe in the gallery system where a work can be seen and touched.  Galleries also take my sculptures to fairs both in the UK and abroad.

But I also list work online and have shipped far afield, including Australia.



What are you working on right now? 

Things go in phases and I find it very hard to stop exploring the possibilities of whatever particular activity I am engaged in at the time.  At this moment I am working on pieces from my studio series to experiment with different colours and techniques to augment the patination [or oxidisation] effects which I have used for a number of years.

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Do you have any artists that you admire extra much? 

Chillida used materials in a way that connects me strongly to my past making furniture combining steel and oak.  But I love his work for many reasons and most of all the simplicity and clarity.  A visit to Chillida Leku near San Sebastian had a lasting impact.


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What inspires you to create? Where do you get ideas and energy? 

The landscape and the sea inspire me but it is more often the little things that spark an idea of something already in my head – inspiration is everywhere and not just in the obvious places.

Whenever possible I prefer to work outdoors.  Beyond open space and practical considerations there is an overwhelming and direct connection with nature.

Although I am still, the wind blows, clouds move across the sky, rain falls, the sun shines and the landscape that surrounds me is constantly changing.

But when walking I move through the landscape and experience the duality of distance and closeness. The river flows, grasses move, trees make patterns, there are endless tiny events.  Away from my desk or my workbench the time to think is stimulating and precious.


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