Making The Wire Figure By David MacIlwaine

David MacIlwaine is the artist responsible for the iconic “Wire Man” sculpture used in the artwork of David Gilmour’s 2006 album On An Island. It also features on Gilmour’s website in an animated form. David the artist has kindly shared with NPF Magazine how the sculpture and use of it in Gilmour’s 3rd solo album came about. David has also shared some of his other “Wire People” with us!


Wire Man
Above: Photo of original “Wire Man” Sculpture by David MacIlwaine standing 20cm tall.
Below: edited image used on Gilmour’s album.
Wire Man

The origin of the wire figure used on the cover and CD of ‘On an Island’ goes like this:

About two years ago David invited me to a performance he gave at the South Bank, I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the exact date and the title. I was completely mesmerised by David’s playing and by the extraordinary contained intensity of his stage presence, best illustrated by the circle of guitars with which he was surrounded and from which he would choose a particular instrument for a certain song. It reminded me of a circle of wagons drawn up on an empty plain. David’s physical movements as he sang and played were intensely private and expressive of the concentration he was bringing to his performance. Certain stances and movements seemed iconic, a slight raising of one shoulder, his voice exploring a lyric and being tested with same virtuosity he brought to playing the guitar.

Anyway, I was ‘bowled over’ and had one of those rare experiences of being lifted out of myself and carried by another person’s creativity. It was a remarkable mix of a very private virtuosity that I felt part of by the nature of an intensely shared emotion.

My medium is wire sculpture, a line drawn in space, and if I’m that taken by something I want to try and capture and express what I’ve seen and felt. In this instance it was a powerful combination of a performance and a portrait. I have something like a photographic memory when it comes to these things and as I said, certain iconic stances were etched in my mind. Over the next few days I worked on making a sculpture which would capture what I had experienced. The two essential elements were David’s particular body language and the circle of guitars which were both a wonderful prop and a metaphor for the private and public frame from which the performance had emanated. It was remarkably easy and gave me the satisfaction of validating my experience.

I decided to give the sculpture to David as a thank you, popped it in a box and mailed it off.

A Christmas Present In Return

The following Christmas I got a call from David’s wife, Polly, asking me if I could make the sculpture as a line drawing that she could give to David as a letterhead. This is fairly easy – using a photo of the sculpture the line can be separated out and stand alone as a graphic.

David Gilmour’s On An Island album.

Some time later, as ‘On an Island’ was being packaged, I got a call from David asking if he could use the portrait on the album. I could not have been more pleased with the end result, it’s there on the CD itself and in the booklet.

To crown it off, David asked if he could get someone to animate the sculpture and I was amazed one night to see the result on an ad for the album on Channel 4. No one could be more brilliant and generous than David, so I’m thrilled that my sculpture has already had such an interesting an productive life.

I was inspired by this to make other sculptures of musicians and was invited to sit in on rehearsals by The Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The result has been a series which doesn’t quite take in the whole orchestra, but has ranged from the conductor through the concert pianist, timpanist, violinist, cellist, flautist and so on. They are all fascinating studies in mannerism and stance and I have David to thank for setting me off on this productive path.

More Beautiful Wire People by David MacIlwaine

Click images to enlarge


Discuss on the forumFeel free to discuss the sculpture on the forum and/or visit David’s Website.

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