By her own account, Vancouver-based sculptor Danielle Swift always
knew the arts would be her life’s trajectory and recognized early on
there is something heritable about creativity; her family members on
her mother’s side are all artistic — some are writers, musicians, others
paint and draw.
Swift originally studied English Literature until pursuing her true
passion in the Fine Arts in 2004 at the University of the Fraser Valley,
which lead to her job as a sculptor’s assistant in 2006. She honed her
technical skills and craftsmanship during that tenure and in the same
year opened her eponymous studio.
Her work explores the human body and communicates a dichotomy of
fragility and strength represented in both the delicate and resilient mix
of materials (concrete, beeswax, paper, brass, bronze, burlap, rope
and wood), which makes the observer feel the duality of an emotional
and cerebral connection. Having established an affinity for concrete as
her main medium, Swift’s drawn to how the material can be
innovatively manipulated in a way that works aesthetically and is
Long fascinated with anatomy and biology, Swift defines the internal
details (bone, tendons, muscles, ligaments) in her subjects using an
old anatomy book and meticulously replicates etchings from the mid
1800s. Alternatively, she’ll pose or have others sit for a photographer
to ensure everything is aligned and constructed accurately. A lot of
casts are formed from Swift’s body except larger-than-life-size pieces,
which she molds out of various materials including paper, beeswax,
clay, plaster and wire among others before casting them.
What begins with an idea develops into a sketch and transitions back-
and-forth between the physical and conceptual, driving both to
constantly evolve. The nuances in Swift’s sculptures come through
exploration and a visceral conviction, especially in the beginning of the
process. Her sculptures are emotionally inspired and speak to the
natural processes of creation and fragmentation.
Her work generates diverse meanings and poetic musings to reveal the
vulnerability, disconnection and evolution of the human existence on
the planet. The public’s reaction to Swift’s emblematic work is
subjective, yes, but often elicits intense personal associations, which
makes her sculptures distinctive from her contemporaries.
Swift says, “There’s variances in reactions because people are looking
at it through their own lens. Most people react quite strongly to the
work, but it is all over the spectrum.”
Swift’s sculptures have appeared in numerous local exhibits, most
notably, ART Vancouver art fair; East Vancouver’s HFA Contemporary
gallery, Deconstruction and the Space Between; Granville Island’s
Becker Galleries; Vancouver’s Windsor Gallery, and The ACT Art
Gallery in Maple Ridge.
Swift puts in long hours in the studio, generally creating three pieces
at a time, which keeps her interest level active on each — a life-size
sculpture can take 200 hours from start to finish. She is available in-
studio by appointment Monday to Saturday.
On any given day, Swift’s happy place is ultimately in her studio. The
setting: ambient lighting, a glass of wine, and a pot of beeswax — in
her words, modelling feels warm and smells divine.