In Studio: Year(s) of the hare

  • Oct. 23, 2020 11:30 a.m.
Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe)
Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe)
Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe) Sculptor David Hunwick. (Lia Crowe)

By David Wylie, photos by Lia Crowe

It took years for sculptor David Hunwick to understand the deep personal significance of hares as they’ve reappeared throughout his life, his art and his introspection.

The Victoria-based artist—seen recently in West Kelowna at Grizzli Winery’s art in the park event—created his first hare near the beginning of his sculpting journey, in the 1980s in London, where he completed his BA degree in sculpture at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design.

Today, he is known for his sculptures throughout BC, and the hare continues to feature prominently in works such as his Dreams Can Come True sculpture, a piece of public art currently being exhibited on the Okanagan Lake waterway in Penticton.

Of this piece, he says, in part: “All of my artwork reflects aspects of my own journey of discovery. The making of Dreams really represents a visual reminder to myself not to give up on the hopes and aspirations that quicken my step each day and inspire me to reach forward. Yet all change involves movement. Often the decision to jump or move is tempered by physical or other limitations. This piece is created to inspire to take that leap again. The hare, transcends the natural elements of the earth and ocean, and reaches over the moon.”

In high school, David studied drawing, animation, printmaking and etching; his portfolio was predominantly 2-D. He decided to try his hand at sculpting to explore its potential.

After graduating from Ravensbourne, David was accepted for the PGCE teaching program at Bretton Hall College, located in the centre of the renowned Yorkshire Sculpture Park. He began teaching in 1987, continuing to hone his art and exhibiting each year. At this point, he says, his life centred around family, faith, teaching and art.

Eventually, life ushered David to Scotland, where he lived for a time above a converted sheep barn, invited as artist-resident and gallery manager. He describes this as an idyllic setting, where he awoke each morning to the sound of the bleating of sheep. He exhibited annually at the Royal Scottish Academy and worked on a number of public and private commissions. He still has pieces in some of the country’s castles. And during his nine years in Scotland, David noted the ever-present hares, a constant sight on the landscape.

Feeling the pull to Canada, David and his family moved to Gibsons, BC in 2001, relocating soon afterwards to Victoria. In 2008, David decided to focus more fully on his art and established the Sculpture Studio in downtown Victoria.

Coming to Canada marked a turning point, and he became involved in one of his most notable projects soon after arriving here. Over two years, he moulded and cast more than 71 pieces of a blue whale skeleton for the Blue Whale Project, a permanent display at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC in Vancouver.

And around this time, hares became a more prominent part of David’s work.

“When I arrived in Canada, I thought, what should I sculpt? Thinking back to childhood memories of cycling in the Kent countryside, I remembered seeing the hares in the long grass, and the memories brought feelings of nostalgia and comfort,” he said.

He sculpted and cast in bronze his first meadow hare. It captured others’ imaginations and soon more hares followed. Still, he felt the hares weren’t his real work as a sculptor. They were just for fun—whimsical and playful.

“I’d like to say my motivation was really deep and philosophical, but it wasn’t. I just felt like I should make a bunny,” he said. “I was in the period of self-denial—what I call bunny denial.”

Many of the rabbits are done in David’s preferred medium; he loves working in bronze due to its permanence. He also works with concrete. David said he aspires to create visual poetry with the lines, shape, spaces and rhythm of the forms he makes, even including text at times. He’s been using more abstract elements, and incorporating steel and mixed media in his castings. Recently, he’s been putting combustible material into his pieces and then burning them, allowing the element of fire to complete the piece.

“The fire will actually be the last artist,” he said.

He’s planning an exhibition in Italy where five of his works will go up in flames in front of onlookers. What is left when the embers die down is the final work.

Often when creating and conceiving a new sculpture, David leaves some of the incidentals as evidence of the journey that has shaped the piece, so people can see the decisions made in its creation.

“In many cases I want to leave them imperfect because I don’t really believe in perfection—I think perfection is an illusion. I believe in perfect imperfection. The human condition and experience is not perfect; although we strive for it, the reality is very different,” he said.

Hares continued to multiply over the years. He’s made more than a dozen variations: dancing hares, the thinker hare (a visual pun of Rodin’s famed sculpture) and a hare leaping over the moon.

Slowly the realization sunk in. He saw himself in the hares; in fact, he shared many of the character qualities of the hare—elusive and more comfortable in the background. So he embraced the “inner” animal, accepting the hare as an expression of himself as an artist.

“All of the hare sculptures that I’ve made are actually manifestations of me,” he said.

In the meantime, David has continued to keep teaching central to his work, taking on the role in 2012, for example, of artist-in-residence at the Gitxsan art centre in Hazelton, teaching First Nations carvers how to mould and cast their artifacts. He also co-teaches Sculpt Italy, a yearly 10-day workshop in Pietrasanta, Italy, alongside international sculptor Gabriel Vicari.

“If you want to learn about sculpting, you go to Italy,” he said.

For the last 12 years, David has been a regular exhibitor at several fine art shows and won multiple awards. He has participated in the Sidney, Oak Bay, Kingsbrae and Castlegar sculpture walks for several years with a number of public sculptures on permanent display.

“I feel like I’ve been given a gift, the opportunity to create. Life as an artist is not always easy and you question, how often do you want to push the wheelbarrow up the hill? Is it worth it? Then every time you get to that breaking point, you find something positive happens that allows you to continue the extra mile again,” he said.

For more info about his classes in Italy, visit icansculpt.com. For more information on the artist, visit davidhunwick.com.

Just Posted

Tamara Cameron, Uplands Park Elementary School music teacher and librarian, students Ben Leduc, second from left, Avery Kojima and Kinley Robson, as well as other music students from the school, will benefit from $8,000 from MusiCounts, for instruments and recording equipment. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Money for new instruments music to ears of Uplands Park school staff and students

Grant from music education charity MusiCounts means students will have more ways to be creative

A nurse asks screening questions at an immunization appointment in Nanaimo earlier this year. (Shawn Wagar/Island Health photo)
Island Health appreciates nurses answering the call in challenging times

Health authority draws attention to National Nursing Week

Sarah Boileau in her home studio on Monday, May 10. Boileau’s work will be on display at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville through May 30. (Submitted photo)
Beef to the ‘senior’ 30-plus taggers. You are too old to be doing these juvenile antics.
Beefs & Bouquets, May 12

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Nanaimo city council has approved funding for an upgraded bridge crossing Millstone River in Bowen Park. (News Bulletin photo)
New bridge in Bowen Park part of City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plans

Replacement of Lenhart Bridge next year expected to cost $237,000

Beef to the ‘senior’ 30-plus taggers. You are too old to be doing these juvenile antics.
Beefs & Bouquets, May 12

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Ken Rutherford, left, and Rick Lord, organizers of the Nanaimo Model Railroad Show, receive honours from the National Model Railroad Association-Pacific Northwest Region for 40 years of dedication to the preservation and presentation of railroad history. (Photo courtesy Phyllis Rutherford)
Model railroaders honoured for dedication to rail, both life-sized and miniature

Longtime organizers of Nanaimo Model Railroad Show presented with heritage awards

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old Nanaimo bike rider already attracting cycle sponsors

Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Business owner Jeff Ross outside his shop Gold Silver Guy in Qualicum Beach on May 10. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Gold Silver Guy owner finds Qualicum shop in shambles after break-in and theft

RCMP investigating after door smashed, showcases shattered and inventory stolen

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8. (Black Press Media file photo)
Indigenous woman shot by police was holding a replica gun, says Ucluelet First Nation

Woman has been identified as a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)

Most Read