THERE’S only one John Humphreys – despite there being an esteemed newsreader of a similarly pronounced surname.
Ours has an entrepreneurial spirit in abundance and a desire to follow his passion and is definitely not to be confused with his more famous other – namely, broadcaster John Humphrys.
John is one of the UK’s leading sculptors who has collaborated successfully with the film industry over many years while becoming a leading authority on his subject.
Persistence and a belief in his ability have allowed him to overcome challenges – namely, to make a living while pursuing a passion for his subject.
A learning point John shares is sometimes we have to persevere with what we don’t want to do to reach our end goal.
‘When needs must, we sometimes have to do jobs we don’t want to,” he says. ‘I have worked on films and commercials and film sets out of necessity.’
Born in Salford, he studied at Rochdale Art College, Gloucestershire College of Art and Design and The Royal Academy of Schools – his gift being one of creative flair which he has channelled into fusing fine art with his experience of special effects in the film industry, creating sculptures that confuses the viewer.
‘My concern with distorted dimensions presents a fresh and interesting way of exploring portrait sculpture, making the viewer work hard to correct the information they are presented with,’ he explains.
‘The sculpture I create is both surreal and super-real, challenging conventional perceptions of space and hinting at a fourth dimension.
‘I have striven with my work to fuse the mediums of film figurative and abstract sculpture into one.
‘To create a spatial problem instead of providing the answer. My work is designed to force the onlooker to try to solve the spatial problems laid before them.
‘Essentially, I am making viewer think like the artist. To think more deeply and observe more intensely.’
Although a fine art sculptor, his work in film and television includes projects such as Dr Who, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Rob Roy, Max Headroom and Alexander. He also, created the Alien for ‘Alien Autopsy’, the black and white film that launched worldwide controversy around a UFO crash near Roswell, New Mexico.
So how did it all begin?
John’s creativity knows no bounds and it all started when he discovered his love for making things, having developed in interest in looking for clay as a youngster while growing up near many derelict sites in Manchester, created as a result of bombing after the second world war.
‘Like most children I was interested in making things,’ he recalls. ‘Besides there wasn’t much else to do on wet weekends in Manchester in those days.’
What no Wifi John?
Turning clay into metal became a passion for him as he grew up and he was excited to cast his first sculpture in bronze at Cheltenham College.
‘We had fantastic bronze casting facilities there which I made great use of and cast a number of sculptures,’ he recalls. ‘The first sculpture I made was a bronze bust of my father but the next thing was a full-size figure which I cast fibreglass and decided to paint it. This was a Eureka moment as now I could paint and sculpt in one go. We also built a kiln in the car park from firebricks and managed to cast a full-size figure in bronze.
‘From this moment I took to sculpture full-time. I was very fortunate at Cheltenham in that the staff allowed me to do both painting and sculpture.’
John left the college with a plethora of skill sets and has also won awards with garden design, including at the Hampton Court Flower Show, and is taking a break from that to complete some unfinished business.
‘One sculpture is of the Queen it’s not a commission but I think my image will be the most surreal possibly ever made,’ he says.
‘I’ve really struggled with this more than anything I’ve ever done but I have turned a corner.
‘The sculpture I really want to make is of the crucifixion. I believe it would be powerful because of the subject matter and that it would really seem to the viewer as if it was in a different dimension to their own.’
Another he is halfway through is that of, believe it or not, John Humphrys.
Presenting that to his (almost) namesake would certainly be newsworthy!