Born in 1973, world-renowned sculptor Hamish Mackie grew up in the picturesque county of Cornwall, in England’s Southwest.
He began sculpting at Radley College, Oxfordshire, before studying at at Falmouth School of Art, and Kingston University, and has been sculpting as a career since 1996. It is incredible, however, that with such an exceptional eye for detail, and extraordinary ability to capture his wildlife subjects so faithfully, as a sculptor Hamish is largely self taught.
Along with an innate talent, a childhood spent growing-up on a farm, and having had the privilege of observing wildlife in many corners of the world at first hand is likely to be a causal element in his success. He believes that close observation and research of his subjects is crucial to be able to understand them and represent their qualities through his work: ““Observing animals in their own environment, in their natural habitat, is essential to understanding the subject’s physical and instinctive traits. For example, the disposition of a captive predator is very different from that of a predator in the wild”.
Hamish’s close observation, research trips and sculpting from life in the field, inform his whole approach to sculpting, and echo his affection for the natural world. His beautiful bronze sculptures capture his own interpretation of instinctive moments of animal behaviour, conveying the inner core, strength and grace of his subject. Of them he says: “You should be able to look wildlife sculpture in the eye and see life.”
His singular style is spontaneous, and he uses fluid, often unrepeatable, gestures with a confidence born from many years of mastering his craft. His works explore a range of emotions ranging from power through grace, to intelligence. His manipulation of materials is critical to achieving this, often leaving dramatic visible traces of the sculpting activity on their surface. Such assertive handling of his materials, understanding of anatomy and form, and perceptiveness of his subjects results in a surface that exudes energy, spirit and character, to create bold and dynamic ‘living’ sculptures.
Hamish works closely with the Lockbund Sculpture Foundry in Banbury, where his sculptures are cast, to ensure that the surface liveliness which he creates when sculpting is retained when it is cast. Here he pushes the boundaries of casting metals such as bronze, silver and stainless steel. Simon Allison who runs Lockbund has always told him, "You sculpt what you want and we'll work out how to cast it.”, and Hamish has taken up this challenge working closely with them for over 20 years creating sculptures which are small and delicate as well as monumental outdoor installations.
Whilst working intensively, Hamish admits time in the studio is also a time to reflect on past works and to look forward to consolidating new ideas. Previous expeditions include elephant spotting in Namibia, dromedary excursions in Dubai and, earlier this year, research trips to Skomer Island in pursuit of puffins, and Edmonton and Elk Island National Parks in Canada. He says “I’ve wanted to visit this fascinating country for a long time, to take in the beautiful landscape and the wealth of wildlife that make Canada a really inspirational place.”
A regular exhibitor at the Chelsea Flower Show, you may have seen one of his stunning stands “Our stand looked fantastic! Bowles & Wyer did a brilliant job, especially the green living wall behind the Stainless Steel Turtles, the moss wall, and the planting around the Monumental Hares.”
Over the years Hamish has won major public art commissions, including one for six life and a quarter size bronze horses for Berkeley Homes Goodman’s Field development in London. The year long project involved six different breeds of horse - ranging from the elegant and exotic Arab to our home-grown powerhouse, the Shire - and incorporated six tonnes of clay, one tonne of silicon rubber and three tonnes of bronze!
In February this year Hamish installed one of his bronze sculptures Ammonite in Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville, which he had generously loaned to the horticultural haven so that it could be enjoyed throughout the seasons by visitors to the garden. A gesture is made even more touching because the collection of Gardens have been set up by a national charity to create and nurture “beautiful, accessible gardens in NHS spinal injury centres for everyone affected by spinal injury[…]to support the mental and physical rehabilitation of people adjusting to life-changing injuries”. The charity website described the inspiration behind Hamish’s Jurassic ammonite fossil depiction beautifully: “Having recognised that humanity has always had a fascination with the past, he set out to create a contemporary sculpture that simultaneously conveys a sense of the timeless beauty of these fossils”.