Ottawa School of Art: Artist uses 3D printer to realize vision of humans and animals

This sculpture by Nicholas Crombach called Teddy was made using a 3D-printer. Photo: Nicholas Crombach

By Rosa Saba

Nicholas Crombach says his exhibition CAPTURED, at the Ottawa School of Art’s Byward Market gallery, represents his fascination with the relationship between humans and animals.

The Ontario-born artist has used traditional and contemporary methods in the show, which includes seven almost life-size sculptures and five smaller, 3D-printed works.

Crombach grew up on a dairy farm outside Kingston. He says that his upbringing surrounded by livestock inspired him during his time at OCAD University in Toronto — the former Ontario College of Art and Design — and at a recent Florence Trust residency in London, England.

“What I’m sort of interested in is the dilemna of co-existence and dependency on the animal world,” he said. “I referenced that feeling as a child, because I’m often referencing childhood in the works.”

One piece that captures the idea is the sculpture Man With Child’s Bow and Arrows, one of the last works a viewer sees at the exhibit. In fact, the sculpture was the first in Crombach’s series of creations, and in a way anchors the exhibition, he said.

Man With Child’s Bow and Arrows. Photo: Nicholas Crombach

“That work is obviously depicting an elderly or middle-aged man, but under close inspection you see that his arrows are actually toys,” he said. The piece explores themes of hunting versus play, or hobby hunting versus survival.

“I like referencing dying traditions,” said Crombach.

In stark contrast to the large, grey sculptures are five tiny lifelike 3D-printed pieces.

Crombach began experimenting with 3D printing at OCAD, and eventually received a grant to produce a series of sculptures related to earlier works like Man With Child’s Bow and Arrows.

The sculptures were created using real models and props such as taxidermied animals. The scenes were then scanned with a 3D scanner in what is known as a rapid prototyping studio after which files of the scans captured are sent to be 3D printed. They are printed with a light grey gypsum material.

“It’s a weird feeling for me, because I’ve been working in such an analog way for so long,” he said. “That’s one of the main differences within the work … the larger works are very labour-intensive.”

“With the 3D-printed works, I need a concrete idea and I need to know exactly what I want.

“I always thought of it and presented it as sculpture. I also just like the juxtaposition of these labour-intensive works with these hands-off works. If you look closely, you can tell that (the latter have) been printed.”

The two series are meant to communicate in the same way, both referencing the animal world either directly or indirectly. The first 3D sculpture the viewer sees SHOWS a small boy hugging his teddy bear, sitting on a bearskin rug.

The piece Crombach said has received the most attention in the series is Hunter 2, which depicts a man wearing a rubber inflatable duck around his waist and holding a rifle.

Hunter 2. Photo: Nicholas Crombach

“I find myself going back and forth with animal figures and human figures, and I think that the 3D printed sculptures, which were made in 2016, are sort of me edging back towards the use of more animal figures,” he said.

Crombach has also just opened a solo show in Montreal, Behind Elegantly Carved Wooden Doors, which he said includes more animal figures.

“A lot of them are definitely inspired by my upbringing, and my relationships with the animals in this rural setting,” he said.

Gallery co-ordinator Cathy Brake said the George Street gallery space was set up to allow maximum visual impact for CAPTURED. As viewers enter, they are first met with one of the seven larger  figures against a wall that was constructed for the exhibition. Viewers then see the series of 3D-printed pieces before coming face-to-face with the other six handmade sculptures.

“The lighting enhances the dramatic sculptural features of the artwork, giving a sense of unease,” said Brake.

CAPTURED will be at the Ottawa School of Art, 35 George St., until Nov. 19. Admission is free.

This story has been produced in collaboration with Centretown News and Carleton University.

Share Post
Written by