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Award-Winning Film-Maker, Charlotte Metcalf Meets Renowned Figurative Sculptor David Williams-Ellis

Pilot PR is delighted to welcome the award-winning documentary film-maker and writer, Charlotte Metcalf, as our guest contributor.


Leading figurative sculptor, David Williams-Ellis is the subject of Charlotte’s latest work. As his official biographer, Charlotte shares some glimpses into the mind of the artist. As well as presenting previously unseen images of David's Elemental exhibits by artistic photographer, Francesco Ferla, we are also delighted to present exclusive footage (4.26 mins film) by Charlotte Metcalf, to coincide with Williams-Ellis’s major solo Sculpture Exhibition at The Portland Gallery in London next month.

Charlotte has made numerous films for the BBC and Channel Four, as well as for the United Nations and for numerous corporate clients ranging from Tesco to 2012 Olympics Committee. She is best known for her ground-breaking political portrait of William Hague, 'Just William....and Ffion' for Channel Four and the award-winning 'Schoolgirl Killer', made for the BBC and now turned into an award-winning movie DIFRET, executive produced by Angelina Jolie.


Charlotte Metcalf:

I met the sculptor, David Williams-Ellis, in January 2013 when a magazine sent me to interview him at his Cumbria home. Judging from photographs of his work, this was an artist who teased vibrant, dancing figures from lifeless lumps of clay so I expected a tortured, quicksilver sprite of a man and not the down-to-earth, friendly person who greeted me at Penrith Station. ‘I’ve always been a country boy,’ he joked as we drove through the rain in a Land Rover smelling of wet dogs. It was the start of a firm friendship and a fruitful creative collaboration with a film and i-book on the way.

Back then David had been creating work for private and corporate clients around the world and was beginning to think about his first exhibition for over a decade. Today, nearly two years and 17 pieces of new work later, David almost become that imagined sprite – he is thin and tired but exhilarated in anticipation of his one-man show, Elemental, opening to the public at London’s Portland Gallery on 3rd December.

Many of his new pieces are female figures battling storms with names like Squall, Windswept and Eclipse, and his Umbrella Girls in particular embody his preoccupation with energy and the elements. David’s studio is on the side of a steep escarpment, so he watches the weather transform the Pennines daily. ‘I want to create a visceral feeling of the human figure existing within that ever-changing environment,’ he says.

David’s sculpture resonates with such emotional intensity that every collector perceives it differently. When filming in Milan, we went to the art and antiquities gallery of Narghes Sorgato Michail. An Umbrella Girl looked quite at home amongst the ancient ceramics and ethnic stone carvings. Narghes described the ‘big emotion’ she felt seeing David’s work for the first time at an exhibition in Olympia in 2002. ‘We were captivated by the beauty and elegance of these little figures,’ she said. ‘I think David has an Italian woman’s soul. Mostly women buy his work because they see themselves in moods and emotions of his figures.’

Another collector, Lucinda Compton, lives at Newby Hall in Yorkshire, home to one of Britain’s finest collections of Greek and Roman sculpture. She and her husband bought David’s Wood Nymph to leap from their lily pond in front of the house. Lucinda described Wood Nymph as possessing the same ‘elegance, romance and beauty’ as the classical art around her.

On my first visit to David’s studio, he was working on the Muses, a gigantic pair of seated women, inspired by Gauguin’s Polynesian island paintings. Copies of them will flank the front door of the Portland Gallery when Elemental opens. They are a departure from much of his work, being so vast and still, but they resonate with a palpable sense of energy and tension. In May, I filmed a crane hoist the Muses into the garden of Jane and Alex Thursby. Alex, Chief Executive of the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, admitted to being ‘a little bit hooked on’ David’s work. ‘We’ve travelled so much that we love the way his work represents east meets west,’ said Jane. Having seen David toiling on their Plaster of Paris shells, it was rewarding to see the Muses cast in bronze and adding such exotic grandeur and theatricality to the northern English landscape.

In September, I visited David at his Basingstoke foundry. The final figures for Elemental were emerging from their forges in searing reds, rusts, scorched ochres, rich coppery greens deeply seamed with verdigris, azure blues and chalky whites. ‘I’m fascinated with patination and I don’t think anyone else is working with colour the way I am at the moment,’ said David, excited by his experiments. His bold, innovative use of patination gives the classic beauty of his sculpture a sharp contemporary edge and makes it unlike any other figurative sculpture currently on the market.

David Williams-Ellis’s ELEMENTAL exhibition at The Portland Gallery runs from 3rd – 23rd December 2014.


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