Lydia Smith, our current Artist-in-Residence at RMS for Girls, will be publishing a fortnightly creative column on our website and via our regular parents communications. The purpose of this column is to give insight and updates into the work that Lydia is doing here at RMS.

Welcome back to my creative column. I’m Lydia Smith, the Artist-in-Residence at RMS, and this is the fourth edition.

In case you’ve missed them, you can catch up with all previous editions here!

We are one month away from the unveiling celebration, so it’s time I revealed some more behind-the-scenes shots!

The material I have chosen to work with for this project is recycled polystyrene. I chose this material as it allows me to create large-scale works at a fast pace. These recycled polystyrene blocks have had several lives. They will have started as fresh blocks; the supplier I use collects the off-cut polystyrene and recycles it into new blocks. It’s good to know that I have taken a material widely known for its toxicity and offset my waste into another usable polystyrene block. We recycled around 45 black bin bags during the project and only created around six rubbish bags.

The blocks arrive measuring 4′ x 2′ x 8′, and I used three of these and some leftover offcuts from the House of Dragon set to create the RMS sculptures. Using the miniature models, I cut up the full-size blocks into smaller-sized blocks – all pre-measured using the technical drawings – and stuck them together, resembling a giant game of Jenga!

Once the glue had dried, my assistant Joanna and I would place the templates on the front and back, and as a team, following the numbers on the side of the templates, we would cut through the front/back profile. Next, we cut the left/right profile and unwrapped the block formation to reveal the basic shape of the sculpture inside.

Once each sculpture had its rough shape, I moved on to solo carving, firstly using my hot-wire in looping and slicing motions to remove chunks of material. I worked looking at the miniature model and drew on the high points, curves and angles onto the polystyrene as a guide for myself.

Once I was happy with the roughed-out shape, I used nail brushes that started to create the detailed forms, slowly working my way up in smoothness, ending with sandpaper before the coating process began.

Sculpture can be a labour-intensive profession, but at the same time, it requires delicacy and patience. Sculpture has been stigmatised throughout art history as a male profession; being an artist in your own right has systemically been categorised as only available to males. We are currently experiencing a contemporary art scene that has been forged by a canon created by a male artist. There has been several waves of feminism within the art world, but the gender pay gap is still immense.

“The Artist, academic and author of Women Can’t Paint, Dr Helen Gorrill, studied the selling prices of 5,000 paintings and found that for every £1 a male artist earns for his work, a woman earns a mere 10p.

Likewise, a review of recent auction prices shows a clear disparity between record figures for male and female artists. In 2019, Jeff Koons’ Rabbit sold for a cool $91m (£78m), compared to the sale of Jenny Saville’s Propped at $12.4m only the year before. It’s even been found that when men sign an artwork, it increases in value, but when a woman does the same, the work decreases in value.”
‘Why has the art world got such a gender pay gap problem?’ by Tazie Taysom (click here to read full article).

I could share many more quotes and statistics with you, alongside personal and professional stories where I have been directly affected negatively because of the systemic issues within (and outside) the art world. That would require a column all on its own!

As announced in the previous column, we now have a confirmed date for the Private View and unveiling of the sculptures! It will be hosted on March 19th, 4.30 -7.30 pm

You can now RSVP to the event HERE.

I’m so looking forward to sharing the sculptures – and some more surprises – with you!

Until next time,
All the best