Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Brian Colin's fantasy creatures come to life at the Plaza Theatre

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Humphrey is one of Colins creations for The Land of Revilo
  • Brian Colin
  • Humphrey is one of Colin's creations for The Land of Revilo
Local sculptor Brian Colin has become known for his fantasy creature creations that bring otherworldly inhabitants to three-dimensional life. His sculptural work has primarily been seen locally at the now-defunct Alcove Gallery, but this month you can find his whimsical creations taking up residence at the Plaza Theatre for The Small Game of Revilo, a collection of pieces representing the denizens of the artist's own land of wonder and whimsy. As part of the theater's Art Opening and a Movie series, Revilo is being paired, appropriately enough, with a screening of the Jim Henson classic The Dark Crystal, with the Center for Puppetry Arts providing some of its Henson collection for the opening night festivities. As he puts the finishing touches on his newest collection, Colin takes a moment to talk about this show.

This upcoming show at the Plaza Theatre appears to explore your own fairy tale-like universe. What can you tell me about the show?
The show's title is The Small Game of Revilo, primarily because the land in which all my little creatures are coming from is called Revilo. It originated because all the sculptures I had done up to this point were much larger and I wanted to try and do some smaller pieces that would maybe be a little more mammal oriented and looking less like dragons and things like that. But as I was moving along, I ended up doing a few larger pieces as well.

Revilo is kind of where I see myself retreating to to create characters and storylines that could eventually influence my son's life through creative storytelling and parables and things like that.

Is Revilo based on anything or is it a creation all your own?
It's my own creation. I wanted my characters to feel like they all belonged to one cohesive universe and not necessarily feel like they were from earth, or even a parallel universe. I wanted them to feel like they had their own world.

You mentioned the size of the sculptures, which is something I was going to ask about since the Plaza offers a much smaller space than Alcove did. A lot of the stuff you showed at Alcove, especially in its last show, was pretty huge.
I've done one piece as small as a rabbit's head, basically. Then I've done one that's probably the size of a wolf for this show. There's a total of eight sculptures, and I'm also going to have four watercolor studies that are very light-colored filtrations of some of the creatures I've created.

Your sculptures are very unique in that they are simultaneously very life-like, yet very fantastical looking. Tell me a little bit about the process that goes in to creating one of your typical works.
When I first started, I was just customizing smaller vinyl toys that were meant to be painted on and things like that. I was already ordering artificial animal eyes from a taxidermy shop and from there I decided to sculpt a tiny vulture head. So I did a series of these vulture heads and I liked the idea of them and that they were starting to look a little more like they could actually be alive. Then I looked through the catalog that the taxidermy place sent me and I realized there were all these styrofoam bases that people used to put the carcasses of animals on, so I ordered one of those foam bases and decided to start sculpting on top of that.

From there, I used an air-drying clay that I sculpt on top of them, then I've started incorporating other elements like buying weird animal horns on ebay and porcupine quills, and also casting certain things out of resin. With some of my pieces I've made molds for little elements like scales that would be on an alligator or dinosaur, then cast those out of resin so I could replicate them over a large area of the creatures.

With some of the stuff you've seen at Alcove, I cut ornate plaques out of rare hardwoods and tried to make them more like traditional taxidermy that you would find in a hunting lodge. But with four of the pieces from this show, I've sculpted backgrounds almost as though [the creatures] are coming out of their environment, so they weren't necessarily hunted and it's like you're looking into their world a little bit.

Camilla leaves Revilo for a brief visit to the Plaza Theatre
  • Brian Colin
  • Camilla leaves Revilo for a brief visit to the Plaza Theatre
You mentioned the influence that being father has had on your work. With Father's Day coming up, how much of an influence would you say being a father has on the work you do now in comparison to the work you did before you had a child?
I think a lot just because I can see a completely different reaction in his eyes when looking at a two-dimensional piece of paper versus something that's sculpted and watching him actually touch it and move his hand along different textures. It pushes me to really try and make things look different on each creature, as though they're all their own species and each one has its own characteristics.

Pairing The Dark Crystal with this show seems like a natural fit. How much of an influence would you say films like that, and the other works of Jim Henson, had on the work you're doing now?
I'm sure it has an underlying theme somewhere in the back of my head and I do believe my subconscious has referenced that. I remember seeing all the Muppet movies and movies like Labyrinth and knowing there were these fantasy creatures that somehow I believed to be real. Going back and watching The Dark Crystal now, the pacing is so much slower than modern movies. It's amazing to me how much harder it is to watch it over and over again where as a kid I could sit there and watch it every day.

But just seeing how someone could make so many different creatures come to life has definitely influenced my work and my style and the way I look at the creatures I make.

The Small Game of Revilo. Art opening at 8 p.m., movie screening at 9:30 p.m., June 7. Through July 3. Additional screenings of The Dark Crystal at midnight June 10 and 3 p.m. June 12. 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta. 404-873-1939. www.briancolinart.com. www.plazaatlanta.com.

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