When we think about concrete and cement the first thing that comes to mind is its use in building and construction, but concrete has played a large role in other industries such as art and design. Artworks made with concrete have been around for centuries, and have influenced the contemporary world tremendously. You may have seen many sculptural pieces displayed in galleries, and cement sculptures have added a modern aspect to many homes and office spaces.
It is popular to add artworks made with concrete mixers to both public and private buildings as centrepieces, or built-in display pieces. In just a few minutes read, find out about the use of concrete in the art industry, along with some of the most famous contemporary artists which have used concrete as a medium throughout history. We’ll also cover some of the more modern and commercial artworks made with concrete mixers which appear in contemporary homes today, which you can make yourself.
The use of concrete and concrete mixers in the art industry:
The use of concrete as an art form can date back thousands of years ago. First used by the Egyptians in the building of the pyramids. And later it was adapted and improved to be used by the Romans to free them from brick-and-mortar buildings. Allowing them to create more abstract and interesting architectural designs that could facilitate arches, aqueducts and domes without cracking. We are all familiar with the famous ruins of monumental buildings such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon. These examples are what’s left of the iconic legacy of the first artistic use of concrete in architecture. Tourists still flood to see the concrete ruins, the last standing evidence of this empire.
After the fall of the Roman empire, many secrets about creating concrete and cement disappeared, until cement was developed again in the 19th century, which has led to the cement and concrete we know today. Although concrete plays a role in the rich cultural history of civilisations through architecture, it has also found its way into contemporary and sculptural art pieces.
Concrete and cement first became popular as an art medium in European countries right before the first world war. However, it took off in the 1920s when artists from Germany started using concrete in many sculptural pieces. Nobody is certain why artists started using concrete during this period, but it is thought to be because it was easily accessible and not as expensive as other materials. It is also an extremely versatile material which allows artists to easily experiment with it.
Methods of creating artworks with concrete:
The main methods of creating concrete artwork come from casting sculptures in a mould. Here the original sculpture is usually made from a different material that is easy to shape, such as clay or a wood carving, and then a silicone, plaster, or latex mould is created from this sculpture. Concrete is poured into the mould and left to cure before the finished product is removed and ready to be put on display.
It is also possible to create concrete sculptures without a mould, although this method is usually more complicated. In this method, the concrete is supported by first building a skeletal frame or armature to build onto. The armature can be made out of different materials such as wood or metal and can be filled with a light substance such as styrofoam or styrene. The concrete is then poured over this and used to build the form by hand in a similar way that artists would use clay. This process can take much longer as the end product often needs layers upon layers of concrete, wire, and metal or wooden supports.
Concrete mixers are used mainly with large-scale concrete artworks, and they can save a lot of time and effort for the artist producing the work. Mixing large quantities of concrete by hand can be extremely time-consuming, and it can be difficult to produce a consistent quality. Artists that are casting multiple versions of one sculpture can benefit from using concrete mixers, especially if they are casting multiple moulds at the same time.
Famous artists and artworks made with concrete, cement and concrete mixers:
Henry Moore – Henry Moore wasn’t the first artist to use concrete to create his sculptures, but he was one of the first artists to elevate concrete sculpture to something more renowned and esteemed. Many modern artists today are still influenced by Henry Moores’s cement and concrete sculptures, making his artworks some of the most important creations in developing the modern cement and concrete sculptures we see today. He created 21 concrete sculptures in total between the years 1926 and 1934, and they usually consisted of small-scale figures and heads. It is assumed that he started using concrete and cement to create his sculptures because it imitated stone, but was a much cheaper and more accessible option. Many of these concrete sculptures can be seen in the Tate Gallery and many other famous galleries around Europe.
Benoist Van Borren – Another famous artist who works mainly in concrete is Benoist Van Borren, although these artworks are much more modern and contemporary than Henry Moores. These sculptures are made in the shape of geometric blocks with sharp edges and often have other materials embedded in them such as metal nails. They are minimal sculptures that emphasise the concrete material and create an industrial stylistic look. These sculptures have become extremely popular in modern galleries and exhibitions, and through this, we can see that concrete is no longer a material we use only in construction. Concrete is taking the art world by storm and people are loving it.
Daniel Popper – Daniel Popper is a highly successful Cape Town based artist who makes the biggest concrete sculptures you can imagine. His sculptures are monumental and take up large spaces in public areas. They are made from large concrete moulds and reinforced with fibreglass and steel. One of his most famous public sculptures is titled “Thrive”, and consists of a large figure, with a giant head and torso. The figure is posed ripping open its torso with an archway that people can walk through. The whole sculpture weighs about 14 tons and is over 10 metres tall.
With large-scale artworks such as Daniel Poppers’ public sculptures, the use of concrete mixers benefits these projects greatly. This allows the artist to go large scale while ensuring the quality of the concrete is kept consistent. The same would be necessary for designers and architects when creating public decors such as centrepieces and fountains.
Concrete Mixers: Can you create your own concrete artwork at home?
As these types of artworks become more popular in art galleries, and in public sculptures around gardens and shopping malls, many people are coming up with great ideas to start experimenting with concrete and concrete mixers. There are so many ideas to inspire your concrete artwork to place in your home and garden, or even in your office space.
Luckily, cement and other aggregates needed to make concrete artworks are extremely easy to get your hands on, and you should be able to find all you need to get started from your local hardware store. It’s best to create your concrete artwork in a large outdoor area to avoid a mess in your home. The following are a few tools and materials you will need to help you get started on your concrete art journey.
- A collection of buckets to mix your concrete for small-scale pieces.
- A large scoop.
- Plastic containers to use for mixing.
- Rubber gloves protect your skin from the corrosive chemicals in concrete.
- Dust mask to protect your lungs from cement dust.
- Hose pipe.
- Watering can when small amounts of water are needed.
- Spray bottles.
- Colouring for concrete if you want to create different coloured artworks.
These tools and materials are just the basics and may change depending on the type of project you’re creating. It’s always recommended to do as much research as possible before you get started. The more you get to know your material, the easier it will be to create your projects.
Concrete art ideas for your next project:
A great way to start your concrete artwork journey is to gather ideas online. There are tons of step-by-step tutorials on how to mix concrete, build small concrete moulds, and create easy and stylish artwork from the comfort of your home. You can find amazing ideas, along with tips and tricks on pages like Pinterest and Youtube.
2 Ways to create your own cement or concrete sculpture at home:
Creating your own concrete sculpture at home can be daunting, especially when you don’t know where to start. The three most common methods of creating cement and concrete sculptures at home include the following. The method you choose is completely up to your preference.
Casting the concrete in a mould.
This is one of the easiest ways to create concrete artworks, and it often ends with a clean and professional-looking finish. First, you need to select your cast or mould, you can create your own from plastic, silicone or styrofoam. If you’re short on time or not too into building things there are many casts online that you can easily purchase. They come in so many different shapes and figures so you can go wild when choosing the design you enjoy most. Cement, concrete aggregates and water are then mixed until you have a thick consistency similar to oat meal. The concrete is then poured into the cast and left to dry for around 24 hours before it is removed and ready for display.
- Ensure your concrete mixture is not mixed with too much water, as you want to avoid a consistency that is too runny.
- A mixture that is too runny is easy to pour, but it can weaken your artwork as it is less durable over time and will be more likely to break.
- Once removed from the cast, allow the sculpture to continue curing for about a week to harden properly.
Carving into concrete.
This can be a bit more difficult than using a mould but it allows you to create an individual and unique design. Although you need to work quickly to complete the sculpture before the concrete dries. The carving is made on a flat concrete slab, it’s a good idea to draw out your design before adding concrete onto the slab to carve. Pour your concrete onto the desired mould and begin carving your design using carving tools such as a hammer, chisel and scraper before it dries. You can continue to add small sections of mixed concrete until you have the desired relief design.
Get innovative and create your own beautiful artwork at home to add to your interior or exterior design.